Rather than treating asthma like a string of isolated asthma attacks, doctors are now treating asthma as a chronic condition that is affected by nearly every aspect of the patient’s life. Instead of focusing on acute care intervention, doctors now focus on daily management, medication and monitoring to help minimize symptoms of asthma and lessen the severity of asthma attacks when they do happen.
Asthma education is a key part of that management. By teaching the patient and his family how to monitor his own condition, what causes flare-ups of symptoms and how to avoid them, doctors can reduce the number of hospitalizations and emergency room visits due to asthma. Using a peak flow meter, an asthmatic can keep track of his lung capacity – and seek appropriate treatment if it wanders into the danger zone. Education about asthma can impress upon him the importance of measuring every day – and keeping careful records.
Extending that education into the community can literally save your child’s life. Something as simple as spending an hour with a third grade class to show them how to help someone having an asthma attack can pay back unexpected dividends. After all, wouldn’t you rather know that all of your child’s classmates will recognize an asthma attack – and do the right thing when they see one?
The administration of your child’s school is another place where asthma education can pay off big dividends. Many schools still don’t understand how vital it is that a child with asthma has his inhaler with him at all times. When schools deny an asthmatic child his right to carry his inhaler for fear that other children will find a way to abuse it, the results can be disastrous. Making the effort to do a bit of advocacy and asthma education can literally make the difference between life and death.
Community asthma education can also make a big difference in whether or not children with asthma are properly diagnosed. Many people still don’t recognize the symptoms of asthma unless they see an acute attack – but mild asthma, and the symptoms of chronic asthma can be devastating to a child’s life. Chronic respiratory illnesses, bronchitis, pneumonia and chest pain can keep children out of school and in the emergency room. By educating the community through public service announcements, school outreach programs, clinic visits and physician incentives, many children with hidden asthma can be reached and treated, reducing the overall costs of health care as well as improving the individual child’s health.
Like diabetes education ten years ago, asthma education today can help alert parents, identify those who suffer from asthma and make sure that appropriate treatment is available to everyone who needs it. This is especially important in the case of childhood asthma, where the diagnoses and treatments and standards of care so often seem to be inequitable. Asthma education can help ensure that all parents are aware of the standard of treatment that their children SHOULD be getting – which is the first step to ensuring that the children get the care that they require.