Tag Archives: asthma

ALA helps students with asthma return to school

Lung Association Recognizes Asthma-Friendly Schools and Offers Back-to-School Checklist for Students with Asthma

Waltham – Families across the nation are beginning to prepare for the new school year. A new school environment can sometimes be difficult for children with asthma. This back-to-school season, the American Lung Association highlights tips for families of children with asthma and stresses the importance of crafting a plan to properly manage asthma in a school environment.

“Asthma is a serious chronic disease that affects millions of children,” said Jeff Seyler, President & CEO of the American Lung Association of the Northeast. “Asthma symptoms can often be exacerbated at this time of year and it is important for parents to work with their healthcare provider and school personnel prior to the first day of school on controlling their child’s asthma. We must do all that we can to prevent asthma attacks and missed school days.”

Asthma is one of the most common chronic childhood disorders in the nation. It affects an estimated 136,267 Massachusetts children under the age of 18. It is also one of the primary illness-related reasons that students miss school, accounting for more than 10 million lost school days each year. Asthma is the third-leading cause of hospitalization for children under 15. In 2011, more than half of people with current asthma experienced at least one episode, or attack—with children 39 percent more likely than adults to have an asthma episode.

As part of its Asthma Friendly Schools Initiative (AFSI) the American Lung Association launched the Asthma-Friendly Schools Champions Awards earlier this year with support from the Environmental Protection Agency and Genentech Pharmaceuticals. The AFSI Champion Awards recognize schools that have taken positive strides to create a healthier learning environment using the strategies outlined in the Asthma-Friendly Schools Initiative.

In preparation for the school year ahead, the American Lung Association urges parents who have children with asthma to complete the following checklist:

  • Step 1 – Learn about asthma

The American Lung Association has many free resources to help you and your child learn how to keep asthma in control.

  • Visit www.lung.org/asthma to learn about asthma and asthma management. Be sure to watch the short animation What is Asthma? to learn what happens in the airways during an asthma episode.
  • Asthma Basics is a 50-minute online educational tool for people with asthma or anyone who provides care for someone living with asthma. It teaches how to recognize and manage asthma symptoms, how to identify and reduce triggers, how to create an asthma management plan and how to respond to a breathing emergency.
  • Visit Lungtropolis along with your 5-10 year old child. You’ll find action-packed games designed to help kids control their asthma—plus advice for parents.
  • Step 2 – Talk to the school nurse

Together, you and the school nurse, along with your child’s healthcare provider, can work to reduce asthma triggers and manage symptoms while in school.

  • Ask the school nurse to explain and provide all of the required forms you and your child’s healthcare provider need to sign and complete, including an asthma action plan.
  • All 50 states and the District of Columbia allow children to self-carry and use their asthma inhalers while at school. Each law is different; visit www.breatheatschool.org and click on your state to learn more.
  • Discuss your child’s asthma triggers and steps to reduce them in the classroom.
  • Ask about the school’s asthma emergency plan, and if coaches, teachers and staff are trained in how to recognize asthma symptoms and respond to a breathing emergency.
  • Step 3 – Schedule an asthma check-up

Each school year should begin with a visit to your child’s healthcare provider for an asthma check-up. This check-up is the best time to make sure your child is on the right amount of medicine for their asthma, to fill-out any forms required by the school and to create an asthma management plan as described in Step 4. Kids with asthma should visit their healthcare provider every three to six months, depending on how often your child is having symptoms.

An asthma action plan is a written worksheet created by your healthcare provider and tailored to your child’s needs. The plan includes a list of their asthma triggers and symptoms, the names of their medicines and how much medicine to take when needed. The plan also explains the steps to take to manage an asthma episode and a breathing emergency. An asthma action plan should always be on file in the school nurse’s office and easily accessible to anyone who may need to help your child use their inhaler.

  • Step 5 – Get a flu shot

On average, 1 out of 5 Americans suffers from influenza (flu) every year. Respiratory infections such as the flu are one of the most common asthma triggers. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) recommends everyone over the age of six months get a flu vaccination. The best way to protect your family from the flu is for everyone to get vaccinated.

For additional information on asthma and children, including a downloadable version of this checklist with even more details, visitwww.lung.org/asthma or call the Lung HelpLine at1-800-LUNG-USA.

One in 10 adults and children suffer from asthma in Mass.

By Barbara Kwetz Allan

I look out my kitchen window and see another glorious, crystal-clear day in Massachusetts, yet I know from my professional life that unseen, microscopic particles of air pollution are wreaking havoc on so many with respiratory ailments and heart conditions. Most of us walk through our daily lives unaware of the price our most vulnerable – children, elderly, and others with compromised health – are paying, as air pollution irritates lung airways and infiltrates bloodstreams.

This point is not lost on my friend whose son suffers with asthma. “Most people don’t know that pollution can aggravate asthma,” she said. Having rushed her son unable to breathe to the emergency room more than once, my friend is hyperaware of the need to reduce the things that exacerbate his asthma. She does what she can around their house to limit asthma triggers, but feels helpless when she lets him walk outside.

On December 14, my friend’s son and others with chronic diseases may get some relief if the Obama Administration chooses to support stronger limits on particle pollution, commonly called soot. These limits, called the National Ambient Air Quality Standards, ensure that everyone in the nation is protected based on the most current public health science.

The present standard, set in 1997, no longer reflects what the most current science shows to be protective of public health. In fact, many are living under the false sense of security that the air is safe to breathe when it is not. Hundreds of scientific studies have confirmed that millions of asthma attacks, as well as heart attacks, strokes, and even deaths, could be prevented every year if the standard were strengthened.

The black smoke that spews out of smokestacks, chimneys, and from the tailpipes of countless vehicles contains billions of particles of soot. The body reacts to soot in much the same way it does cigarette smoke. These microscopic particles are easily inhaled and inflame not only the lungs, but all of the body’s essential life systems. In fact, breathing soot has been compared to taking a piece of sandpaper and rubbing it against the tissue of the lungs.

The 2011 Sick of Soot report, which the American Lung Association coauthored, concluded that adopting an annual standard of 11 μg/m3 and a daily standard of 25 μg/m3 would provide the most health benefits. Most notably, these more protective standards would prevent as many as 35,700 deaths from occurring annually as a direct result of breathing in soot -almost enough lives saved to fill every seat in historic Fenway Park.

Massachusetts has the unfortunate bragging rights of having asthma rates that are among the highest in the nation, with approximately with the disease. Unfortunately, children suffer most, as their lungs do not fully develop until they reach early adulthood. Early exposure to particle pollution during this critical development period can hinder lungs from maturing properly and cause respiratory problems that children will carry with them for a lifetime.

Asthma is a common chronic condition in children and is a leading cause of emergency room visits and missed school days in Massachusetts. Although the human suffering associated with asthma is great, so is the cost to our wallets. According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, total charges for asthma hospitalizations in Massachusetts in 2010 were $113 million – a 126 percent increase since 2000. Taxpayers are expected to pay 66 percent of those costs.

It is a shame that we live in a state that prides itself on being a leader in the health, environmental, and renewable energy fields, yet our residents are suffering at the mercy of a national pollution standard that is outdated and does not provide adequate public health protection.

For the sake of children like my friend’s son and many others who suffer with asthma or compromised health, President Obama must ensure that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency adopts the most protective soot standard possible. Anything less places the health of current and future generations at risk.

Barbara Kwetz Allan is a board member of the American Lung Association in Massachusetts.