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Respiratory care students teach kids about asthma

Posted: Wednesday, November 14, 2012 · Volume: XLV · Issue: 23

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Under the watchful eye of respiratory care student Norma Silva, a child from Camelot Elementary School places artificial “mucus” into an “inflamed” airway. She is learning about asthma triggers and how they can affect her airway.
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Under the watchful eye of respiratory care student Norma Silva, a child from Camelot Elementary School places artificial “mucus” into an “inflamed” airway. She is learning about asthma triggers and how they can affect her airway.clear graphic

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By Rosanne Fohn and Catherine Duncan

Ask elementary school kids to make artificial “mucus” and have them push it through a cardboard tube representing an inflamed airway, and they get a better understanding of asthma.

This was just one of several hands-on activities presented to children with asthma at Camelot Elementary School Nov. 7 by respiratory care faculty members and students from The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, in collaboration with North East Independent School District (NEISD).

“Giving them hands-on lessons that they can really relate to helps them understand what is going on inside their bodies and how they can help prevent and manage their disease,” said Donna “De De” Gardner, M.S.H.P., RRT, FAARC, associate professor, chair of the Department of Respiratory Care and the Stephen Lloyd Barshop Endowed Professor.

Gardner noted that the asthma education model used, The Asthma Blow Out, was developed by Diane Rhodes, B.B.A., RT, AE-C, assistant director of asthma education in the NEISD. In addition, she is an adjunct faculty member in the Department of Respiratory Care, part of the School of Health Professions.

Understanding the anatomy of asthma
There were six learning stations in all, including one where the children saw lungs in action with a Radical Randy asthma simulation doll. The simulator has a rib cage that opens to show what healthy and inflamed airways look like, and has removable inflatable bronchioles.

“Our goal is to teach the children how to use their medication inhalers correctly, the importance of taking their medicine, how to identify early warning signs and asthma triggers, and the importance of healthy living that includes exercise. We want the children to be able to participate in sports and exercise, and not have their activities limited by a disease that can be successfully managed,” Gardner said. “The children learned strategies to avoid their asthma triggers and how controller medications can help them.”

The children’s parents had a separate asthma education program presented by pediatric nurse practitioner Lesley Vernon and by Rhodes, a certified asthma educator.


(Left to right, standing) Respiratory care students Santos Jimenez, Isaac Maldonado and Sharon San Juan help Camelot students learn an Early Warning Signs rap song after teaching the children about their individual early warning signs for asthma.
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(Left to right, standing) Respiratory care students Santos Jimenez, Isaac Maldonado and Sharon San Juan help Camelot students learn an Early Warning Signs rap song after teaching the children about their individual early warning signs for asthma. clear graphic

 

Play reinforces concepts for parents and children
The children concluded their three-hour lesson by presenting a play for their parents about asthma and how to control it. “The play reinforced and demonstrated to the parents the pathophysiologic changes that occur during asthma in a larger-than-life airway. As the older students recited the lessons of the six stations in rhyme, the younger ones acted out the process of the airway changes and warning signs that occurred due to exposure to the triggers,” Rhodes explained. “The play continued with the reversal of those airway changes through the application of asthma medications and trigger avoidance to achieve asthma control.”

Chronic disease causes many children to miss school
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, asthma is a common chronic childhood illness affecting 7 million children — or one in 11. The chronic disease affects the airways of the lungs, causing them to become inflamed and making it hard to breathe. Asthma can be deadly with 9 million adults and children dying from the disease each year. The number of persons with asthma continues to rise, with black children twice as likely to have asthma than white children. In 2008, asthma caused 10.5 million missed school days.

Thanks to several grants, the respiratory care students and faculty will bring the asthma education outreach program to four more NEISD elementary schools this year: Colonial Hills, Dellview, Larkspur and Wetmore.

Gardner and Rhodes received an $11,365 D. Robert McCaffree M.D. Master FCCP Humanitarian Award from the American College of Chest Physicians and the CHEST Foundation to support the program. The grant is titled “2+2 Asthma Education Crew-Asthma Education in the Elementary School Environment.” The program is based on the Asthma Blow Out model.


 
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