Stories about: asthma

Home visits for asthma: a win for both patients and payers

Marquis and his mother (middle) received educational home visits from Children’s nurse manager Massiel Ortiz

The journal Pediatrics released a study from Children’s Hospital Boston that shows a preventative approach to treating asthma can keep kids out of the Emergency Department (ED) and save money on health care spending.

The study is based on data collected by Children’s Community Asthma Initiative (CAI), which has been working closely with low-income residents of Boston with asthma since 2005. By sending nurse practitioners and community health workers into the homes of families whose children are frequently hospitalized for asthma, Children’s staff was able to identify asthma triggers in the families’ homes and offer education on avoiding them.

For example, a mother who cleans every inch or her home but then places the broom and duster back in the closet could still be exposing her child to asthma inducing mites. Trained CAI staffers, many of whom have asthma themselves, teach participants the proper way to clean a house to fully remove dust and other potential asthma triggers like pest droppings and mold. The program also provides special coverings for bedding and vacuum cleaners with specific, asthma fighting filters, free of charge.

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Managing winter asthma in your home

A warm scarf or turtleneck-style neck-warmer that covers over the nose and mouth keeps the air a child breathes warm enough to ward off cold temperature-related asthma symptoms.

Winter usually ushers in plenty of exciting outdoor activities for kids, like sledding and snowball fights. It’s a lot of fun, but the chilly air can be tough on kids with asthma.

“The cold, dry air of winter can really irritate a child’s asthma,” says Amy Burack, RN, MA, AE-C, program manager of Children’s Hospital Boston’s Community Asthma Programs, a division of the hospital’s Community Asthma Initiative (CAI).

And when asthma symptoms flair, it leads to more than discomfort. For many children, it can lead to a trip to the Emergency Department or worse, hospitalization.  Asthma continues to be the leading admitting diagnosis at Children’s Hospital Boston.

To counteract those numbers Burack and her colleagues at the CAI have worked hard with families in local communities to help educate people about how to better manage their kids’ asthma. In  five years the Initiative has successfully contributed to cost savings by reducing Emergency Department visits and hospitalizations and improved quality of life through a reduction in lost school days for children and missed work days for caregivers.

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Clearing the airways

Everyday Children’s Community Asthma Initiative helps patients like Marquis Lewis manage their asthma.

For 17-year-old Marquis Lewis, it begins with a hacking, relentless cough. His heart pounds, his neck strains and his chest sinks in—all signals of his lungs’ desperate fight to capture even the smallest bit of air. “It gets real tight,” Marquis says, pointing to his chest. “It’s like I’m fighting just to breathe.”

Marquis, a Children’s Hospital Boston patient, is describing an acute asthma attack—a scenario that’s all too familiar to seven million U.S. children. The most common chronic childhood disease, asthma causes a narrowing and swelling of the airways in the lungs. With proper management and the correct use of medication, children with asthma can usually live normal, active lives. But it has no cure, and when it’s not kept under control, it can be debilitating and even fatal.

Marquis was 18 months old when he experienced his first attack. It was a bout so severe that he was hospitalized in Children’s intensive care unit (ICU) for two days. For the Lewis family, these early attacks were only the first chapter in what would become a long and grueling cycle of sleepless nights, absent school days and financial and emotional strain.

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Healthy Family Fun website: you can breathe new life into your kid's asthma management

kid with asthma inhalerJust because your child suffers from asthma doesn’t mean he or she can’t enjoy running, swimming and other outdoor play made possible by the long, bright days of summer! In fact, when done properly physical activity can improve the strength and efficiency of their heart and lungs, as well as their attitude, self-esteem and confidence.

The Healthy Family Fun website, a project of Children’s Hospital Boston and Kohl’s Department Stores providing families with information on how to eat better and get more exercise on a budget, just released some helpful tips on how to get your asthma sufferer off the couch and on the playground. Written by Amy Burack, RN, MA, AE-C and Community Asthma Programs Manager at Children’s, the tips provide practical advice for parents about where, when and how their child with asthma should play outside this summer. It also touches on the importance of an asthma management plan, and how parents can easily create one with the help of their child’s pediatrician.

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