BAKERSFIELD, Calif. -
One in five Kern County youngsters has asthma, yet many misconceptions surround this chronic disease that is a leading cause of hospital emergency department visits, hospitalizations, and school absenteeism.
May is Asthma Awareness Month, with May 7 designated as World Asthma Day. Kern County is joining in this global effort to raise awareness about asthma and help those with asthma control their disease.
One common misconception is that asthma can be cured or that a child will “grow out of it.” Although asthma cannot be cured, it can be controlled. But for too many Kern County residents, their asthma is not properly controlled through medication and education. That can lead to serious health problems, permanent lung damage, and even death.
During an asthma attack, the lining of the airways in the lungs swell, muscles around the airways tighten, and mucus clog the airways, making it difficult to breathe. More than half of all children with asthma have had a severe asthma attack in the past year, and more than one-fourth of these children had an attack so bad they thought their life was in danger, according to the Asthma Coalition of Kern County, a community group promoting asthma awareness and education. (The California Breathing website, www.californiabreathing.org has asthma statistics for Kern County and all of California.)
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, asthma costs the U.S. $56 billion each year. About nine people die from asthma every day in this country, the CDC reports. In 2008, according to CDC statistics, asthma caused 14.2 million missed days of work and 10.5 million days of missed school. (See www.cdc.gov/asthma/ impacts_nation/AsthmaFactSheet.pdf.)
One significant result of uncontrolled asthma is increased school absences. Asthma is http://www.cdc.gov/asthma/ impacts_nation/AsthmaFactSheet.pdfthe leading cause of school absences, accounting for 40,000 lost school days each year in Kern County. In the Bakersfield City School District, $1 million in funding was lost due to missed school days from asthma-related illness, reports Deborah Wood, RN, the district’s coordinator for School Health and Neighborhood Support Programs.
Factors that can set off asthma, called “triggers”, include inhaled allergens (from dust, pollen and animals), exposure to tobacco smoke, air pollution, chemical irritants, and even exercise (exercise-induced asthma). Everyone has different triggers. Identifying these triggers and how to avoid them is critical to controlling asthma.
The American Lung Association in California offers many free programs to teach children with asthma and their parents how to manage their asthma so they are in control, instead of letting asthma control them. For more information about these programs visit www.lung.org/asthma and if the kids want a fun way on how to learn to control their asthma visit www.lungtropolis.com