For many kids, summer vacation can be like one long recess, with games of tag, hiking and bicycling. But for the nine million children under the age of 18 who’ve been diagnosed with asthma, that summer fun is punctuated with the need for inhalers and preventative treatments. It can also mean days spent indoors to avoid poor air quality. Fortunately, there are some summer camps devoted to their special medical needs.
In the 1980s, asthma was a little known thing. So, when playful games of tag became painful breathing exercises and gym class was excruciating for me, my symptoms were dismissed by my family and my doctor. I was finally diagnosed with chronic exercise and environmental asthma about five years after my first symptoms appeared. Back then, I was the only one I knew with this strange breathing problem. Today, about 20 million Americans suffer from asthma. Nine million are under age 18.
Can parents help but worry about their kids lungs with the degrading quality of air? Probably not. According to the American Lung Association, there are dangerous levels of particles and ozone on the air in several parts of the country. These can lead to asthma attacks.
“The air quality in several cities has improved, but in others, declines in pollution have stalled. The trends tell us loud and clear that we need to do more to protect Americans from breathing air that’s simply hazardous to their health,” said Bernadette Toomey, President and Chief Executive Officer of the American Lung Association.
Pittsburgh, Penn., is the most polluted city in the U.S. according to the American Lung Association’s annual report card on air pollution, released on May 1. According to the report, it’s a mix of ash, soot, diesel exhaust, chemicals, metals and aerosols that makes Pittsburgh the dreaded number one.
Kids with asthma don’t really need to spend their summer days inside. Careful management of asthma can make outdoor play, summer camp and life in general a lot better.
Seeing a specialist – such as a pulmonologist – can help. They are the best versed in the latest and best medicines for treating asthma. They may also know of older ways that can help with nothing else does.
Summer camp can be just as fun for asthmatic kids as for others. Camps like Asthma Adventure Camp, which is run by the American Lung Association of Illinois cater to kids with asthma. The programs are specifically designed and staffed by people who know what to do in case of an asthma attack (along with respiratory therapists and physicians). But Asthma Adventure Camp doesn’t shy away from the rough and tumble fun of traditional summer camps. Campers still hike, swim, go canoeing, play soccer and basketball and more. There is also an asthma education component to the program. www.lungil.org
If you aren’t in Illinois, there are still plenty of options for camps for asthmatic kids. The Consortium on Children’s Asthma Camps has a list of asthma camps as well as special pre-camp checklists.
Having asthma might set people back, but it shouldn’t make people skip the fun parts of summer vacay!
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