Allercy and Asthma Health
The Official Publication of AAN - MA

Respiratory Therapists in Pennsylvania Reach Out to Young Asthmatics in Need

By Michael Harrison, RRT-NPS, CPFT, AE-C

St. Mary Medical Center in Langhorne, PA, hosted our first-ever asthma camp last summer. The five-day camp, which was designed for children ages six to 12, took place each day from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.. It was offered to them free through a partnership with the free clinic run by St. Mary’s for families without health insurance. In doing so, our respiratory therapists were able to reach a group of children who otherwise may not have had the chance to learn about asthma and how to better manage it.

Battling misinformation

A pre-camp survey and interview was conducted with each camper to assess each child’s knowledge and understanding of asthma and his/her medications. The survey showed the children had only a 55% understanding of asthma. After the camp, we re-interviewed the campers, finding we had increased their knowledge of asthma to 79%.

The surveys really showed how much misinformation is out there. Children are often diagnosed and sent home with an inhaler or nebulizer but with no significant training. Unfortunately, through lack of understanding and clarity, these children with asthma are at risk. For example, the children at our camp lacked a basic understanding as to why they were taking their inhalers. A common response was, “I take it to breathe better.” They did not say they took it because they had asthma. The children were also unclear about when to take their bronchodilator and when to take their steroid. Rinsing after taking an inhaled steroid was also a weak point in their knowledge.

Education + fun

On day one of the camp, the children were given an asthma pack that included a valved holding chamber and peak flow meter. Campers were instructed on the use of both devices and what their norms were for the peak flow meter. A daily log to track their peak flows was also handed out and explained in detail. Educational and physical activities were combined to address all of the major aspects of asthma and its treatment, ensuring a comprehensive understanding for the kids.

Activities included “Make Your Own Mucus” (a camp favorite), where children learned the importance of proper hydration by making “mucus” from cornstarch. The Bronchial Tube Relay Race called for the children to run with tubes to three different stations: one where they simulated constriction with rubber bands, another where they simulated mucous plugs with cotton, and a treatment station where they “opened the airways” before dashing to the finish line. We also incorporated other fun activities such as soccer, wiffle ball, and frisbee during camper free time.

Every child was given an action plan at the end of the week with detailed instructions on how to use the action plan form. We feel strongly that every child with asthma should have an action plan detailing exactly what to do in case of emergency; this helps alleviate panic when an asthma attack happens.

Expanding the camp

We were able to hold two sessions of the camp last year, and we expect to expand it to three or four sessions this year. Through better education and resources, children can manage their asthma and not be afraid of exercising or participating in the activities most children do every day.

AARC member Michael Harrison is the manager of respiratory and sleep/wake disorders at St. Mary Medical Center in Langhorne, PA.




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