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Published on May 01, 2009

Controlling Your Child's Asthma This Summer

Asthma is a chronic lung disease that affects a person's airways, or bronchial tubes. These tubes lead from the windpipe, or trachea, into the lungs.

According to American Academy of Pediatrics, controlling a child’s asthma means to control the “triggers” of their asthma attacks. The most important thing to do is to monitor your child’s asthma closely and to make sure that their medication is being taken properly. If this is done, most children should be able to take part in physical activities.

“Exercise can be a lot more difficult for kids with asthma because their airways are very sensitive,” says Gary Wendell, M.D., chief of the Division of Pulmonary Diseases at Crozer-Chester Medical Center. “Asthma attacks can vary from mild to severe and involve shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing, chest tightness, chest pain or any combination of these symptoms. Even mild asthma symptoms should not be ignored as they may herald the onset of more severe or even life-threatening attacks.”

Some triggers of asthma can include cigarette smoke, strong smells, colds or other respiratory illnesses, chemicals, air pollutants, weather conditions, pet dander, dust mites, mold and mildew.

When children are diagnosed with asthma, physicians will prescribe medications to help control their symptoms.

“The type and amount of medication a child needs depends on the severity of the asthma,” says Daniel DuPont, D.O., chief of the Section of Pulmonary Diseases and chairman of the Department of Medicine at Taylor Hospital. “For mild cases, a physician may only prescribe a bronchodilator, a medication that helps breathing by relaxing the tight muscles around the airways, for quick relief as soon as symptoms begin. More serious cases will require daily medications to prevent attacks as well as quick relief drugs to alleviate any developing symptoms.”

“It is important for parents to educate their children about their asthma triggers and what they should do in the event of an attack,” says Gerald Meis, D.O., chief of the Section of Pulonmary Disease at Springfield Hospital. “Creating an asthma action plan with a child is a great way to ensure that everyone will take the proper action when there is an attack. It is important for children to know how to properly use their inhaler. Also, a child’s school nurse and administrators should be notified about the child’s asthma in case of an emergency.”

Crozer-Keystone offers several specialized programs to help children with asthma, including the Kids Asthma Management Program (K.A.M.P.) and the Asthma Day Camp.

A HAP (Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania) award-winning program, K.A.M.P. provides school-based asthma detection and management services to children in the Chester Upland School District. Through this program, children receive medical care and monitoring, access to appropriate asthma medications, patient and family education, and tools for asthma management. 

The annual Asthma Day Camp is held at the Healthplex® Sports Club every summer in conjunction with the American Lung Association. This one-week camp for children ages 7-12 features swimming, tennis, kickball, basketball and more amidst an educational atmosphere. This year’s camp will be held on June 22-26.

“The camp is a great way for the children to learn how to manage their own asthma so that they can still do the activities they love without being held back,” says Deborah Whitsett, R.N., MSN, AE-C, educator for the Kids Asthma Management Program. “At Asthma Camp, children learn what to do when they have an asthma emergency, how to use a peak flow meter to determine their asthma symptoms, and the difference between a ‘reliever’ medication and a ‘control’ medication. When a child’s asthma is properly managed, most children can lead normal, healthy, active lives.”

For information about the Asthma Day Camp, call (610) 328-8874. To find a Crozer-Keystone physician who’s right for you, call 1-800-CK-HEALTH (1-800-254-3258) or visit www.crozerkeystone.org.

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