Asthma Important information for Educators and Caregivers
Do you know what asthma is? Asthma is a chronic, or long-term, disease in which breathing becomes temporarily difficult due to the narrowing of airways. Asthma is the primary reason children miss school. Asthma is the most common reason a child goes to the emergency room.
Knowledge can make all the difference. As an educator or caregiver, knowledge about asthma is essential, as you are an important part of assisting a child in following his or her Asthma Action Plan.
Types of asthma affecting children: Allergy-induced asthma: symptoms are caused by dustmites, pet dander, cockroaches, pollen, or other particular allergens. Exercise-induced asthma: symptoms triggered by physical activity, including sports and playtime activities.
Other possible triggers: Chalk dust. Mold spores. Class pet. Clothing of other students with pets. Cold air. Common cold. Medications such as aspirin, beta blockers, or non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Stress or emotional situations. Preservatives, such as sulfites. Smoke or other air pollutants, such as cleaning chemicals or perfume.
Asthma News The not so good news: Asthma is incurable. A great place to find out more about allergies and asthma, including a newsletter, great school tools (a well done video, class projects, interactive page, puzzles and more) parent resources and other helpful information (some of which is available in Spanish), is at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology website at www.aaaai.org . The good news: Asthma can be controlled.
The first step is diagnosis. If a child displays symptoms such as difficulty breathing, coughing or wheezing, or pain or tightness in the chest, the parent or guardian should consult with the family’s general practitioner. If the general practitioner suspects asthma, he or she may refer the child to a specialist such as a Pulmonologist, Allergist, or Immunologist. The earlier asthma is diagnosed, the better chance one has for keeping the condition from worsening over time.
If the diagnosis is asthma: Communication and regular consultation between the child, his or her parents, and the child’s doctor is key. As a teacher or caregiver, discuss the child’s specific Asthma Action Plan and keep a copy on file. Be sure to gain a fullunderstanding of the proper course of action in assisting the child in managing his or her asthma. Monitor and record symptoms and attacks.
Common Treatments Long-term control medications (taken daily to prevent symptoms): Inhaled corticosteroids (inhaled)- These are the most commonly prescribed, with a low risk of side effects. These are preventative, long-term control medications. They include such names as FloventDiskus, Flovent HFA, PulmicortFlexhaler, Asmanex, Aerobid, and Qvar. Leukotriene modifiers (taken orally)- These are preventative medications. Sometimes these medications have adverse, psychological side effects. They include such names as Singulair, Accolate, and Zyflo. Long-acting beta agonists (LABAs), (inhaled)- These reduce inflammation of the airways. They include such names as SereventDiskus and ForadilAerolizer. Theophylline (taken orally)- These relax muscles around airways. Not as common. They include such names as Theo-24 and Elixophylin.
Common Treatments (Continued) Quick relief medications (Rescue medications): Short acting beta agonists (inhaled)- These fast acting bronchodilators (inhalers) are used during an asthma attack. Effects last for hours. They include such names as ProAir HFA, Ventolin HFA, Xopenex HFA, and Maxair Autohaler. Ipatropium (inhaled)– This provides immediate relief by relaxing airways. This includes the medication named Atrovent. Occasionally used to treat severe asthma attacks. Oral and Intravenous corticosteroids- Used only on a short-term basis due to potentially serious side effects, these medications reduce airway inflammation.They include such names as Prednisone and Methylprednisolone.
It is important to seek emergency treatment if: Shortness of breath occurs with only mild activity. Quick-relief inhaler does not cause symptoms to subside. Shortness of breath quickly worsens.
Prevention for children with asthma: Take medications and follow one’s asthma management plan. Be mindful of , and avoid, known triggers. Eat well, including fruits and vegetables as a regular part of one’s diet. Maintain a healthy weight. Regular exercise. Practice good stress management. Protect one’s face from the cold.