Asthma Nurse Specialist Ana Marote explains why education is key to enabling young people with asthma to live a healthy life
Asthma UK states that 1.1 million children (1 in 11) have asthma; that’s 2-3 in every school class. The UK has among the highest prevalence rates of asthma symptoms in children worldwide and as part of a team we work hard to spread the word that simple steps can be taken to help children with asthma manage their condition and lead a healthy life.
As an asthma nurse I want children with asthma to be able to do everything they desire without their asthma holding them back. If a child takes their inhalers and follows their asthma plans, there is no reason why they can’t. Seeing children regularly means we can monitor symptoms and titrate medication whilst also being able to support them as they transition into teenagers to manage their asthma independently.
I have seen children with good asthma control compete nationally at sport and there are many examples of famous sports personalities with asthma such as David Beckham who prove this.
In September we head towards the dreaded week 38 where A&E attendances peak as children go back to school and germs are shared. The most common trigger for an attack is a virus. How can we change week 38 and stop children and young people developing asthma symptoms? By making sure all children have better asthma control, regular follow ups, follow their asthma plans and take their preventer inhalers.
Asthma is so common and yet most people with the condition do not really understand it or how the drugs work in the body to help prevent an attack. Most people have heard the terms ‘preventer’ and ‘reliever’ but don’t really understand what they mean or which to apply and when.
I often hear when I teach; “no one has ever told me that”, or “no one’s ever explained it that simply before”.
Most people don’t seem to know that by taking a preventer inhaler every day, morning and night, the likelihood of having an asthma attack would be far reduced and living day to day would be much easier.
What many people don’t know too is that when you press down on the most common type of inhaler the drug shoots out at approximately 100mph and by taking it directly into your mouth it won’t make it round the corner. In fact, most of the drug will crush into the back of your throat and get taken to the stomach which is no use when you’re targeting the lungs. Children and also many adult asthmatics need some sort of holding chamber/spacer for the drug so that it can be slowed down and taken in at a slower rate. This makes it more likely to turn the bend at the back of the throat and get into the lungs.
I see children from all sorts of different backgrounds in lots of different settings from A&E to school to home. I see patients who come in unable to play or do sport, some even unable to laugh as that can trigger the dreaded wheeze sound. With a few simple steps and changes in medication they come back months later no longer coming last in a race but coming first.
I really enjoy working in the world of asthma; educating patients; families and other professionals about the simple steps that can be taken to help children with asthma lead healthy, active lives.