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World Asthma Day

Today is World Asthma Day—an annual event organized by the Global Initiative for Asthma to improve asthma awareness and care around the world.  Over the next few weeks, we’re excited to share blog posts that will explain more about the work our providers are doing across the country to help underserved kids and families learn how to control asthma.

by Dr. John Carlson, pediatrician and asthma/immunology specialist, New Orleans Children’s Health Project and Plaquemines Parish

I see many patients who are living with asthma and allergies while working on the mobile clinics in the 9th ward of New Orleans and in southern Plaquemines Parish. When I see a patient with asthma, I work with the family to select the right controller medications so that they have no limitations in the activities they can take part in. If they have difficulty running, sleeping or going to school because of their asthma, I know that we can find a better medication. I also look to see if they have problems with food allergies, eczema, snoring and nasal allergies because controlling these other problems are an important part of controlling asthma.

For Plaquemines Parish resident, Marie*, helping to keep her son Sam’s* asthma under control was difficult.   Although Marie was employed, she was not able to afford health insurance for her children.  Subsequently, Sam’s asthma was not properly managed, causing frightening outbreaks that made breathing extremely difficult.  A few months ago, Marie discovered our clinic outside of the school where she works and learned that her child could receive care, regardless of her ability to pay.  After bringing Sam to the clinic, I was able to get Sam on an “Asthma Action Plan,” give him proper medication, and help Sam and Marie understand what was triggering Sam’s asthma outbreaks.  As it turned out, we also discovered Sam had severe allergies after providing him allergy testing and treatment. 

Allergies and asthma run in families, so I often see kids in groups, and help parents find the resources to control their own asthma. This is helpful especially when it is time to do allergy testing. I perform skin testing using drops of oil that contain various common substances that children are allergic to. Children are often apprehensive about skin tests, but are more comfortable when they see older members of the family go first. After applying the allergy extracts (using a plastic device that "pricks" the oil into the skin) we wait 15 minutes to see which extracts cause a reaction. Depending on what the child is allergic to, we can sometimes help them to avoid or at least predict when they will have more problems. Simply knowing that the patient does have allergies at all helps predict how effective some of the medications will be.

Once asthma is effectively controlled, the children are able to do everything that normal children are supposed to do without limitations from their asthma.  It’s great to be a part of this solution and help kids, like Sam, learn about triggers, get the proper medication, and take control of their asthma.

*patients’ names changed to protect privacy