Since he was a baby, Devin Bush of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, has dealt with asthma, food allergies, eczema and pollen allergies. Through the years with the help of his mom, Tracy Bush, he has had to learn how to transition from reliance to self-management.
When Devin was born, Tracy was not yet familiar with the world of asthma and allergies. He had colic, eczema and breathing issues. He would often cough and sneeze, especially during high pollen seasons or when they would open the windows. But Tracy didn’t have a proper diagnosis and support at that time, so she had to figure out a lot on her own.
“As a first-time mom, it was a little bit difficult to try to figure it out,” recalled Tracy. “You hear that babies cry, babies cough, babies get sick, and this is normal. But you kind of have an intuition, even as a first mom, that something might not be quite right. Emotionally, as a parent, it’s a little bit confusing and challenging. You’re trying to figure out if you should follow your gut feeling, or if you should listen to what other people are telling you. Eventually, you figure it out. But after the whole process of going through it and finding out what’s going on, you find out that your child actually has some kind of issue or health concern. And then you have parental guilt. So, you know that you could have done better. But it’s a learning curve, and you have to give yourself credit for being a part of that learning curve and go forward and not make the same mistakes.”
Tracy soon learned to prepare safe foods free of Devin’s allergens – peanuts, eggs, dairy, shellfish and watermelon. Devin outgrew his eczema, but pollen did cause him to have asthma and allergic asthma symptoms. And pollen became more of an issue when they moved from New Jersey to the Winston-Salem area, #20 on AAFA’s Asthma Capitals™ 2019 Report.
“There were certain times a year where it would affect him behaviorally,” said Tracy. “I could tell that something was going on. And I would tell his teacher every year, ‘About the end of October/November, you’re going to be emailing me saying he’s having behavioral issues.’ February, same thing – behavioral issues. And those were certain times in the year when pollen would just make him not feel well. He didn’t feel well. He was tired. He was goopy.”
Tracy has helped Devin manage his pollen allergy symptoms by tracking pollen counts on a smartphone app, keeping doors and windows closed and having him shower at night. And as he has gotten older, he has been able to better communicate about his symptoms.
Over the years, Tracy has tried to empower Devin to manage his asthma and allergies on his own. But it’s not without challenges. One of the biggest challenges they face now is figuring out the best way for an active teenager to carry an asthma inhaler and quick-relief medicine. They have to work together to come up with the best ways to protect his medicines at places like water parks, the beach and on family vacations so he can have immediate access.
And now, communication between mother and son is one of the most important aspects of asthma and allergy management. Like most parents, Tracy wonders if she has taught him everything he needs to know to prevent and treat asthma and allergy symptoms. At the same time, Devin is learning independence. For parents of teenagers moving into adulthood with asthma and allergies, they have to transition from the role of protector to the role of supporter.
“I would say generally kids listen more than we think they do,” said Tracy. “Parents worry they’re not listening and they’re not paying attention, but they really do. They are sponges that just suck everything in. And there will just be moments where he will let me know by saying things, telling me events that had happened, that make me understand that, yes, he has been listening. Yes, he’s more responsible than I think he is. And he does understand even though he doesn’t agree with everything, he knows that this is what he has to do to keep himself healthy.”