ST. PETERSBURG – The Suncoast Pediatric Asthma Coalition wants to improve the quality of life for children and teens living with asthma in the Tampa Bay area.
The group is planning its 10th annual Asthma Family Day, which is at All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg on April 30.
“We’ll have great speakers, activities, and enthusiastic volunteers,” said Michiko Otsuki Clutter. Clutter is a coalition member and assistant professor of psychology at USF St. Petersburg.
She also heads the Suncoast Youth and Family Health Research Lab. Clutter does research to identify psycho-social factors that help young people manage their asthma care.
“Some kids are better at taking their medication than others. We want to learn why,” Clutter said.
Annmarie Colwell is a registered respiratory therapist who oversees the coalition’s outreach efforts. “I have two daughters, Natalie, age 13, who is a severe, persistent asthmatic and Caitlin, age 9, who is a mild, intermittent asthmatic,” Colwell said.
According to Colwell, her daughters and their asthma have shaped every aspect of her life including her career path and involvement in the coalition.
Colwell said she cannot forget the first time her infant daughter had trouble breathing and was hospitalized. “You deal with the fear, then the feeling of helplessness, loss of control, guilt and finally the relief that comes from having a child with asthma.”
Colwell shares the lessons she has learned combined with medical expertise. “I try to interact with the parents as well as the children and provide them with ‘real world’ answers on how to live day to day as a family with asthma.”
More than 7 million American children have asthma. The chronic respiratory disease is a major cause of childhood disability, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
There is no cure for asthma, but “knowing the warning signs of an attack, staying away from things that trigger an attack, and following the advice of your doctor or other medical professional” can reduce risks, the CDC reported.
Asthma accounts for more than 56 million school absences. Asthmatic children often spend their time away from school confined to bed.
Symptoms include: labored breathing; recurrent coughing; rapid, shallow breathing; wheezing, shortness of breath; and chest pain. In severe cases asthma can be deadly.
Treatments usually involve taking medication to prevent inflammation of lung tissue. With proper care, asthma attacks can be significantly reduced. But children with asthma do not always get the care they need or take their asthma medications as prescribed.
HELPFUL TIPS FOR FAMILIES
Colwell offered the following suggestions to parents of asthmatic children:
* Establish a relationship with a pediatric pulmonologist. Asthma can be a life-long disease and having a go-to person is imperative.
* Keep your child and her or his caregivers involved and informed. Make sure they know asthma can be life threatening and what to do if an attack is triggered.
* Keep a binder for questions and answers, get educated on the disease process and how your child reacts to triggers and medications.
“Always remember, you are your child’s best advocate,” Colwell stated.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Asthma Family Day is for children ages 4 to 18 and their families and caregivers. Registration is recommended.
For more information, go to www.allkids.org/AsthmaDay or call (727) 767-4188