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The Experience of Dyspnea in School-Age Children with Asthma

Woodgate, Roberta PhD, RN

MCN: The American Journal of Maternal/Child Nursing: May-June 2009 - Volume 34 - Issue 3 - p 154–161
doi: 10.1097/01.NMC.0000351702.58632.9e
Feature article

Purpose: To explore the experience of dyspnea in school-age children with asthma including exploring children's perceptions of the (1) sensations of dyspnea, (2) precipitants of dyspnea, (3) coping strategies used to deal with dyspnea, and (4) effects of dyspnea on lives of children.

Study Design and Methods: This interpretive, descriptive, qualitative research study had a sample of 30 school-age children diagnosed with asthma. Data collection involved individual open-ended interviews combined with drawings. Transcribed data were analyzed using the constant comparative method.

Results: The childrens' experiences with dyspnea were represented by five themes: (1) it is an overwhelming feeling, (2) it is mainly…, (3) I slow it down, (4) others only need to help when it is really bad, and (5) I am not a player. Although children varied with respect to how they described their experiences, they all reinforced that the sensation of dyspnea was distressing and painful, something that when experienced overshadowed everything else.

Clinical Implications: Children with dyspnea have much to share about what it is like to experience dyspnea that may be used by nurses to provide comprehensive and sensitive care. Nurses need to take into account the individuality of children's dyspnea experiences when developing treatment plans for children with asthma. Education programs that are tailored to meet individual needs will help children to take control and manage their dyspnea.

The most common illness in children is seen here through the eyes of the children themselves.

Roberta Woodgate is a Professor, Faculty of Nursing, University of Manitoba, Helen Glass Centre for Nursing, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. She can be reached via e-mail:

The author has disclosed that she has no financial relationships related to this article.

© 2009 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.