Asthma is a chronic disease that involves inflammation of airways in the lungs. There is no cure, but it can be treated and controlled. During an asthma attack three basic things occur in the lungs - the inside of the airways swell, airways muscle spasms occur and mucous builds up. Asthma affects all age groups from infants to senior adults. There are many different theories on why asthma occurs, but no definite explanation.
Asthma is characterized by excessive sensitivity of the lungs to various stimuli. Asthma episodes can be triggered by a variety of factors including pollen, cigarette smoke, mold, animals, cockroaches, dust, weather, exercise, respiratory infections and colds, emotions, strong smells, etc. Over 80% of those with asthma also have allergies. Each person reacts differently to the factors that may trigger asthma.
Common symptoms include:
Treatment for asthma includes avoiding the factors that can start an attack and taking medication to control the inflammation in the airways. The treatment will depend on the severity and frequency of the symptoms. To deal with childhood asthma, the doctor may prescribe two types of medicines:
Approximately 18% of the students in the Independence School District have asthma, and it is the most common reason children miss school. Symptoms vary per person, but some common symptoms include a cough with or without mucus, wheezing, difficulty breathing, and/or chest tightness. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms you should see your physician.
If you would like more information about asthma, contact Dee Hampton at (816) 325-7320 or DHampton@indepmo.org.
This website was made possible through funding from the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City.
The Independence Health Department takes an active role in working with children with asthma. Children in the Independence School District are presented the American Lung Association's Open Airways program. This program helps the students understand their asthma and learn to take charge of their asthma. Classes are also presented to adults, bus drivers, childcare workers, teachers, after-school workers and caretakers.
The American Lung Association’s Open Airways For Schools is a school-based curriculum that educates and empowers children through a fun and interactive approach to asthma self-management. It teaches children with asthma ages 8-11 how to detect the warning signs of asthma, avoid their triggers and make decisions about their health. Children who complete the Open Airways for Schools program should be able to:
Watch this video from an Open Airways For Schools facilitator on why the program is so important to young asthma sufferers.
Open Airways For Schools was developed over a decade ago by researchers at Columbia University, in collaboration with the American Lung Association. The decision was made to design the program for delivery in schools because that is the surest way to reach all children, regardless of their family situation or access to health care. Children who completed the program took more steps to manage their asthma, improved their school performance, and had fewer and less severe asthma episodes. Parents of children participating in Open Airways For Schools reported taking more steps to help manage their children’s asthma. And the school environment became more supportive: children without asthma were more willing to help children with asthma, and children with asthma were able to give support to one another.
The Open Airways For Schools curriculum consists of six 40-minute group lessons for children with asthma held during the school day. The curriculum incorporates an interactive teaching approach – using group discussion, stories, games and role play – to promote students’ active involvement in the learning process. Topics covered include basic information about asthma, recognizing and managing asthma symptoms, using medication, avoiding asthma triggers, getting enough exercise, and doing well at school.
Open Airways For Schools classes are led by trained instructors, who might be the school nurse or other school personnel, parents, community volunteers, or anyone with an asthma background that has an interest in working with children.
The Open Airways For Schools classroom kits contain easy-to-use teaching materials including a detailed curriculum guide, posters and activity handouts. Each lesson also includes materials for the children to take home and share with their parents. All curriculum materials are available in English and Spanish.
Asthma is one of the most common chronic disorders in childhood, currently affecting an estimated 7.1 million children under 18 years; of which 4.1 million suffered from an asthma attack or episode in 2011. Asthma is a reversible obstructive lung disease, caused by increased reaction of the airways to various stimuli. It is a chronic inflammatory condition with acute exacerbations.Determining whether a child has asthma can be difficult.
Many babies who wheeze with viral respiratory illnesses will stop wheezing as they grow older. If your child has atopic dermatitis (eczema), allergies or if there is smoking in the home or a strong family history of allergies or asthma, there is a greater chance that asthma symptoms will persist.
Not yet. However, for most children and adults, asthma can be controlled throughout life with appropriate diagnosis, education and treatment.
Once a child's asthma is controlled, (usually with the help of proper medications) exercise should become part of his or her daily activities. Children with asthma certainly can and do excel in athletics. Many Olympic athletes have asthma.
You, your family, physician and school personnel can work together to prevent and/or control asthma. Share your child's asthma management plan with the school nurse and any coaches who oversee your child. With the approval of physicians and parents, school-age children with asthma should be allowed to carry metered-dose inhalers with them and use them as appropriate.
The most important part of managing asthma is for you and your child to be very knowledgeable about how and when asthma causes problems and how to use medications.
Millions of teenagers around the world have asthma – you’re not alone. You know best how you feel about having asthma. These tips may help you be in control of your asthma and can make managing asthma as a teen a bit easier:
Many people develop asthma in childhood. However, asthma symptoms can appear at any time in life. Individuals who develop asthma as adults are said to have adult onset asthma. It is possible to first develop asthma at age 50, 60 or even later in life.
Adult onset asthma may or may not be caused by allergies. Some individuals who had allergies as children or young adults with no asthma symptoms could develop asthma as older adults. Other times, adults become sensitized to everyday substances found in their homes or food and suddenly begin to experience asthma symptoms. About 50 percent of older adults who have asthma are allergic.
We do not know what causes asthma. There is evidence that asthma and allergy are in part determined by heredity.
Several factors may make a person more likely to get adult onset asthma. Women are more likely to develop asthma after age 20. For others, obesity appears to significantly increase the risk of developing asthma as an adult. At least 30 percent of adult asthma cases are triggered by allergies.
Different illnesses, viruses or infections can be a factor in adult onset asthma. Many adults first experience asthma symptoms after a bad cold or a bout with the flu.
Adult onset asthma is not caused by smoking. However, if you smoke or are exposed to cigarette smoke (secondhand smoke), it may provoke asthma symptoms.
Asthma symptoms can include:
Unlike children who often experience intermittent asthma symptoms in response to allergy triggers or respiratory infections, adults with newly diagnosed asthma generally have persistent symptoms. Daily medications may be required to keep asthma under control.
After middle age, most adults experience a decrease in their lung capacity. These changes in lung function may lead some physicians to overlook asthma as a possible diagnosis.
There are four key steps to successfully managing asthma:
If your asthma symptoms are caused by allergies, take steps to control known or potential triggers in your environment. Allergy-proof your house for dust, mold, cockroaches and other common indoor allergens to which you are allergic. Reduce your outdoor activities when pollen counts or ozone levels are high. Choose foods that don't contribute to your asthma or allergy symptoms. Evaluate your workplace for possible allergens and take the necessary steps to reduce your exposure to them.
Asthma is usually diagnosed in childhood. In many patients, however, the symptoms will disappear or be significantly reduced after puberty. Around age 20, symptoms may begin to reappear. Researchers have tracked this tendency for reappearing asthma and found that people with childhood asthma tend to experience reappearing symptoms through their 30s and 40s at various levels of severity. Regardless of whether your asthma is active, continue to avoid your known triggers and keep your rescue medications or prescriptions up-to-date and handy in case you need them.
Many adults take several medications and/or use over-the counter medications, such as ibuprofen or aspirin, regularly. Work with your doctor to simplify your medication program as much as possible. Explore the possibility of combining medications or using alternate ones that will have the same desired effect. Be sure to discuss potential drug interactions with anything you take, including vitamins.
Some asthma medications increase heart rate. If you have a heart condition, discuss those side effects with your health care provider. Older "first generation" antihistamines can cause men with enlarged prostates to retain urine. Oral steroids can make symptoms of glaucoma, cataracts and osteoporosis worse.
Adults with arthritis may need special inhalers that are easier to operate. Anyone with asthma should consider getting an annual flu shot. Older adults also should talk with their doctor about getting a pneumonia vaccination. People with multiple medical conditions need to be aware of how their illnesses may affect one another.
You probably think about your child's asthma every day. When you care for a child with asthma, it's important to know what his or her asthma triggers are and to work with your child's health care provider to create an Asthma Action Plan so you will know what to do if your child's asthma symptoms worsen. It's also important to make sure that you know about your child's medication and how to use the devices prescribed or recommended by your child's provider. Be sure to stay informed, and work closely with your child's health care provider to help control your child's asthma symptoms and work toward his or her asthma management goals.
Five important things you can do to help your child manage his or her asthma
If your child is old enough to take part in his or her care, it's important to help your child understand:
Watch the videos in the following link to learn how to properly use an inhaler to get the most out of your child's medicine: http://www.cdc.gov/asthma/inhaler_video/default.htm