Tuesday, May 05, 2009

World Asthma Awareness Day

I hope you'll be hearing a lot about asthma awareness today. Not only is the month of May, Asthma Awareness Month, but today is World Asthma Awareness Day. We all know that April showers bring May flowers and blooms. Along with all that loveliness we get an abundance of pollens which adds to the already pervasive triggers that asthma sufferers deal with. The Global Initiative for Asthma sponsors this awareness day. The theme today: You Can Control Your Asthma (find downloads for a publication by the same name and more, including publications that advise you how you can control your child's asthma, in section #5 of the link.)

For more asthma-related information this month, check out the World Health Organization's asthma pages.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) advises all of us to "Take Action During Asthma Awareness Month." They offer an unexpected variety of helpful information for the control of asthma. Asthma triggers like mold and dust mites may be right under your child's nose. For tips on making the home environment asthma friendly, visit noattacks.com/.

Asthma Medications

A lot of folks around here call their inhalers "puffers." In healthcare we often refer to them as MDI inhalers (metered dose inhalers). Now days we have a wide selection of hand-held asthma inhalers for asthma, COPD and emphysema. It's important to have a good understanding of the purpose and function of each type of inhaler. Some inhalers are known as rescue inhalers; these propel medication into your lungs to quickly dilate the bronchioles, allowing the constricted airway to relax and allow a refreshing deep breath of life-sustaining oxygen!
Maintenance inhalers are meant for long-term control and prevention of symptoms. (Some maintenance inhalers include steroids.)

There are a variety of medications taken in pill form, as inhalers, or as nebulizers. Understanding what you (or your child) is taking is an important fundamental in control and prevention of symptoms.

Are you getting the most out of your asthma inhaler?

As a student nurse in clinical rotations, I spent a semester in a school nurses office. It was obvious that many of the children coming in for their pre-PE puff on their inhaler were using poor inhaler technique. Their expensive inhalers were puffing medication into their mouths, but not necessarily delivering it into their lungs. Using the package inserts (each box containing an inhaler has one), we made posters demonstrating the proper use of each inhaler and spacer and carefully retaught all the kids, having them give us a return demonstration showing understanding of the correct procedure.

Based on that past experience I was delighted to see something similar on the Global Initiative for Asthma site: Instructions for 18 inhalers and 6 spacersInstructions for 18 inhalers and 6 spacers to include diagrams and instructions for the effective use of these devices. View, print, and download this page for your own use. (It occurs to me that a diagram of the correct use of your child's inhaler would be very helpful when you leave the kids with a babysitter.)

Additional Resources of Interest:

I really like Dr. Paul's Children's Health & Wellness Asthma Corner, in particular, the helpful hints for using a puffer/inhaler.

Here's a video aimed at children to demonstrate proper usage of their puffer/inhaler with or without a spacer:

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