May 5, 2020 is World Asthma Day, when the National Institutes of Health stands with patients, families, advocates, researchers, and health care professionals to raise awareness about this common chronic respiratory disease, the people it affects, and the biomedical research that improves its prevention and treatment.
Asthma is a chronic lung disease that causes periods of wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath, and coughing. It is a major contributing factor to missed time from school and work, with severe attacks requiring emergency room visits and hospitalizations. Sometimes these asthma attacks can be fatal.
“During an asthma attack, airways become swollen and inflamed, and the muscles around the airways contract and the airways produce extra mucus, causing bronchial tubes to narrow,” said Richard Vienne, D.O., Univera Healthcare vice president and chief medical officer. “Some sufferers liken an asthma attack to the feeling of drowning because it is extremely difficult to breathe.” Mild asthma attacks may last only a few minutes; more severe episodes can last from hours to days and become a life-threatening emergency.
Nearly 13 percent of upstate New York children younger than age 18 are affected by asthma.
“World Asthma Day is a great reminder for parents to consult with their pediatrician to develop or update their child’s asthma action or management plan,” said Vienne.
Asthma action plans indicate a child’s daily treatment, including which medicines to take and when to take them. It also explains how to identify when asthma symptoms are severe enough to contact the child’s pediatrician or to take the child to urgent care or a hospital emergency room. All adults and schools who care for a child with asthma should have a copy of the child’s asthma action plan and understand their responsibilities regarding the child’s care.
Six steps to controlling your child’s asthma:
- Check in regularly with your child’s doctor to make sure medications are working and available at home, at school, or wherever your child will be.
- Make sure your child takes all asthma medications as directed.
- Alert the adults in your child’s life about their asthma, including details about triggers and signs of an asthma attack. That includes alerting school staff, scout leaders, Sunday school teachers, their friends’ parents, etc.
- Teach your child to recognize their asthma triggers and warning signs.
- Reduce asthma triggers at home by washing bedding with hot water once a week and using allergy-proof covers on mattresses and pillows.
- Prevent the spread of germs by encouraging proper hand-washing by the entire family and making sure that every family member age 6 months and older receives a yearly flu shot.