Asthma is a disease that causes the small airways in your lungs to become inflamed or swollen. It may also lead to airway spasms. Both of these conditions narrow your airway and make it hard for you to breathe.
Commons asthma triggers include:
- cigarette smoke (including secondhand smoke)
- car exhaust and other air pollutants
- smoke from recreational fires
- cold air
- chemical sprays
- perfumes, scented deodorants and other strong odors
- allergy triggers such as animal dander, dust, mold, pollen and mites
- strong emotions
- exercise, sports, work or play.
Warning signs of an asthma attack vary from person to person. In general, the following are signs of an attack:
- shortness of breath
- chest tightness
- faster breathing
- itchy or sore throat
- a drop in your peak flow rate.
You can manage asthma by:
- using a peak flow meter (A peak flow meter is a small hand-held device to measure how fast you can move air through your lungs.)
- following an asthma Management Plan
- eating right
- maintaining a healthy weight
- working closely with your health care provider.
Asthma Medicines for Children
There are different kinds of medicines to treat asthma. Different medicines work for different people. Two common kinds of medicine are:
Controllers. These are used daily to help prevent a person’s airways from getting inflamed. They are also called anti-inflammatories.
Rescuers (relievers). These are used when person is having symptoms to keep an asthma flare-up from getting worse. Rescuers sometimes can help relieve asthma symptoms. They are also called bronchodilators. It is important for people with asthma to always keep a supply of rescue medicine on hand, and keep this supply up-to-date.
- Introduce the topic of asthma and show the brief introductory video: https://allinahealth.videosforhealth.com/Home/v/VideoDetail/c/229/programcode/hc_pd_10001
- Give each young person a straw. Tell them to put the straws in their mouths and try to breath. They should have their mouths closed around their straws. Have them try blocking the tip of the straw a bit. This is what it feels like to have an asthma attack.
- Ask if anyone knows anyone who has asthma or has asthma themselves. It’s very likely there will be a number of people. About 12 percent of teens in Minnesota and Wisconsin have been diagnosed with asthma. There are definitely more young people than that who have asthma-like symptoms but who have not been tested or treated.
- Distribute the “How to Care for Asthma” handout and locate the “Asthma Triggers” checklist and ask them to check off any of the triggers they are exposed to on a regular basis.
- Ask the group to tell you what kinds of things they think people with asthma can and can’t do. Then explain that as long as people who have asthma are able to control their symptoms, they can do anything anyone else can do: exercise, play, hang out with friends.
Ask them to flip over their checklists to the “How to Care for Asthma” side and to work in pairs to brainstorm things they can do to support a friend or family member who has asthma, or to manage their own asthma if they’ve been diagnosed. For a friend or family member this might be reminding them to take their medicines, being kind and understanding if they have to take a break for an activity, not wearing strong perfumes or other scents around them, or telling a teacher or other adult right away if they think someone is having an asthma attack. For themselves it might be remembering to do all these things. Encourage young people to be creative with this brainstorm.
Ask young people to say aloud their ideas and make a list on a white board or flip chart paper of the ways they can support people with asthma or manage their own asthma. The idea is to build awareness of and compassion for people who live with this chronic condition. Distribute the Healthy Families Newsletter in English or Spanish and ask them to be sure to share it with their parents.
Additional Instructor Resources
Asthma videos – Allina Health Video Library
American Lung Association
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America
Allergy & Asthma Network Mothers of Asthmatics