Asthma is one of the most common conditions impacting children today. In fact, asthma accounts for a loss of more than 10 million school days and costs parents more than $700 million due to missed work each year.
Many parents worry about their children with asthma participating in exercise. As a result, these parents limit their children’s physical activity. The truth is, asthma diagnoses often are misunderstood. Having asthma should not keep children from exercising.
To better control asthma triggers, follow these steps:
- Ask your child’s health care provider for an asthma action plan that will help you control your child’s asthma.
- Teach your child use the proper medication to manage the condition.
- Encourage and promote an active lifestyle.
- Make sure your child exercises in a controlled environment (clean space or outdoors) and always has his or her asthma medication readily available.
- Educate your child on what to do if an asthma attack occurs, so he or she knows how to react quickly.
- Talk to your child’s health care provider if current medication is not helping and your child is having symptoms on a regular basis.
For fun ways to increase your child’s physical activity with controlled exercise, visit the Centers for Disease Control. Information for parents can be found at the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute.
~ Michele Polfuss, APNP, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin
Asthma is the No. 1 reason children are admitted to Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, and winter in Wisconsin is a time when asthma sufferers have to be especially careful to prevent asthma attacks. Cold air can trigger asthma flare-ups. Winter also can bring an increase in sinus infections and upper respiratory viral infections that trigger or worsen asthma.
Consider these tips to help prevent winter asthma attacks:
- Dress warmly. Cover your nose and mouth with a scarf when outside. This helps to warm and moisten the air before it is breathed into the lungs.
- Monitor air quality indoors. Avoid using wood stoves or fireplaces because they pollute the air.
- Keep your body healthy. Get your annual flu shot and wash hands frequently. Be proactive in avoiding illness. Colds and other respiratory infections can lead to asthma flare-ups.
- Be cautious of over-the-counter cold medications that may trigger a bad reaction or upset the success of your current asthma treatment program.
- Always make sure you and/or your child have your medication before going outside.
Your physician is your best source for information if you have questions. Follow your physician’s plan for ongoing asthma care and management. Notify your doctor immediately if you or your child becomes sick during the season. Regardless of any precautions you take, make sure you are ready to handle an asthma episode before it occurs.
~ Michael C. Zacharisen, MD, allergist and immunologist at the Asthma, Allergy and Clinical Immunology Center at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.
As coordinator for Fight Asthma Milwaukee Allies, I keep very busy teaching Milwaukee students about asthma: what it is and how to manage it. Last week was especially busy, as I also was gearing up for Milwaukee Public Schools’ anti-idling campaign. It was so great to see young students taking action to make the air they breathe better.
As the bell rang at the end of the day, students at Congress Elementary School ran up to parked cars, vans and buses and asked drivers to turn off the ignition and pledge to not idle. Check out the photos from the event. It’s part of an anti-idling campaign involving 20 other MPS schools through an asthma management grant from the Centers for Disease Control. FAM Allies received an additional grant from the CDC to provide these same schools with asthma education.
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We’ve had some beautiful fall days lately and of course, living in Wisconsin, we’re never sure how many more of those we’ll get before the snow falls. These days are a popular time for bonfires and leaf burning, and in some communities they are very commonplace. They also can be dangerous to your child’s health.
Burning wood and other yard waste releases harmful particles into the air. These particles are too tiny to see, but they have the ability to travel into the deepest parts of your lungs. Just like cigarette smoke, the smoke from wood and leaves can cause irritation to the lungs, eyes, nose and throat.
Your kids may complain of chest tightness, coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, burning eyes, a runny nose or sore throat. These symptoms can last for days after exposure to the smoke. If a child has asthma, symptoms may get worse, and he or she may even have an asthma attack. Children and individuals with underlying medical problems like asthma and allergies are the first to feel the effects of smoke, and are at the greatest risk for problems.
Here’s what you can do to protect your child’s health:
- Avoid or minimize exposure to bonfires and leaf burning. If your child can’t stay indoors, protect him or her with a mask or a scarf over the nose and mouth.
- If your child has asthma, make sure you have his or her rescue medications, usually an inhaler, readily available.
- If your child has an underlying medical condition make sure he or she is taking the medications as prescribed by your doctor.
- If your child has been exposed to smoke and is having trouble breathing, seek medical care immediately.
If you are burning to dispose of yard waste, please consider checking into alternate methods of yard waste disposal like mulching.
And, as always, take proper safety precautions to prevent burns.
–Lauren Donovan, MD, fellow, Pulmonary Clinic, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin
The warm weather officially has arrived! Trees are blooming and the scent of freshly mown lawns is in the air. But for those of us with asthma and allergies, spring also means trouble breathing, itchy eyes and lots of sneezing. Do you have trouble catching your breath when you’re exercising or are around people who smoke? Does your child struggle to breathe or cough a lot when he or she plays outside or with the family dog? You and your child might be one of 300 million people worldwide who suffer from asthma.
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