Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Control Asthma for Better Learning; Chronic Condition Can Interfere with School Activities

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Control Asthma for Better Learning; Chronic Condition Can Interfere with School Activities

Article excerpt

Byline: Sunil Yoshi

What do ex-Olympic diver Greg Louganis, former NFL running back Jerome Bettis and retired tennis star Justine Henin have in common? Yes, they all had world class athletic careers, but they also grew up with asthma.

Just as it must have been for these three champions, going to school in the fall is always a stressful time for children, but even more so for those who suffer with chronic health conditions such as asthma. About 10 percent of children have asthma and, when poorly controlled, it can lead to persistent symptoms, school absences and potentially life-threatening flare-ups that might require emergency room visits.

Asthma also can negatively affect a child's ability to learn and participate in physical activities, such as dance class or sports. It is important to understand potential asthma triggers and appropriate management strategies so that these children have more of a chance at having a successful school year.

WHAT IS ASTHMA?

Asthma is a chronic condition that leads to inflammation of the lungs, which can cause the airway to be more sensitive to agents normally in the environment, such as dust, pollen, animal dander, pollution, strong odors and viruses.

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?

The inflammation and subsequent narrowing of the airway can lead to the classic symptoms of wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath and a dry cough. If untreated, the inflammation will lower lung function, which can turn into a lifelong issue. Thus, early treatment is critical to maintaining healthier lungs and happy, active children.

WHO DEVELOPS ASTHMA?

Asthma can affect young children, adults and men and women of all ethnicities. Some individuals are at increased risk: those with a strong family history of asthma and individuals who suffer from eczema, food allergies and/or environmental allergies.

HOW IS IT DIAGNOSED?

The diagnosis is generally made by the patient's history of classic symptoms, responding to typical treatments. A more objective diagnosis can be made with a breathing test. This simple procedure can give important information, such as the individual's lung function and its response to bronchodilation (opening of the bronchial tubes with an inhaled medication). It is a painless test that can be done by some primary care providers and most allergy/asthma specialists.

HOW IS IT TREATED?

Minimizing exposure to known triggers for an individual patient is the key to decreasing the symptoms associated with asthma. Unfortunately, in a school environment this is not always possible. So, preventing symptoms with the appropriate use of medications can be very helpful. There are two types of medications - controller/preventive medications and short-acting/rescue medications.

In general, preventive medications, such as inhaled corticosteroids, are given daily at home. …

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