Attacking Asthma from a new Angle
by Natalie Gutierrez
6.1 million U.S. children under 18 have asthma.
Asthma is the third-leading cause of hospitalization among children under 15.
There are an estimated 34,493 cases of pediatric asthma in Bexar County.
Source: American Lung Association
These startling statistics might worry any parent of a child with asthma. But for a parent of an asthmatic child in day care, these facts may be the foundation for further concern. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 63 percent of children under 5 spend 37 hours per week in child care. With cases of childhood asthma on the rise, day care centers are enrolling record numbers of children with asthma. But are center staff members equipped and trained to properly care for these children? Thanks to an outreach program in the School of Nursing at the Health Science Center, parents can breathe a sigh of relief.
"Counting on You: Responding to Kids with Asthma" is designed to educate day care providers about asthma management for children. Funded by a grant from the American Lung Association, the program was launched in 2004 and focused primarily on reaching Head Start program day care centers that served children of low-income families. The program has since expanded to include a broader range of day care centers throughout Bexar County.
Project Director Linda Ward, M.S.N., A.P.R.N., pediatric pulmonary clinical nurse specialist in the department of chronic nursing care at the Health Science Center, led 50 nursing students over three semesters through more than 80 day care centers in Bexar County. The students taught day care providers how to recognize warning signs and how to prevent asthma attacks. Providers gained hands-on training in the administration of medications and breathing treatments using standard equipment, and learned the importance of communication among parents, teachers, nurses, counselors, children and other caretakers. More than 300 day care providers benefited.
Mary Lynn Hauser is assistant director of the Laurel Heights Weekday School in San Antonio, where approximately 25 percent of the 100 enrolled children suffer from asthma and other respiratory disorders.
"We care for a large group of children with asthma and other respiratory problems and that number continues to rise," Hauser said. "I was thrilled that our center received such high-quality training. We learned techniques that we put into practice immediately. Our teachers are more confident and our students are more comfortable because of it."
Jessica Parkinís 17-month-old daughter, Claire, is enrolled at the Laurel Heights Weekday School. "Claire had her first asthma attack when she was three months old, and at six months she was hospitalized for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)," Parkin said. RSV is the most common cause of bronchiolitis and pneumonia among infants and children under 1 year. "Claire needs breathing treatments at least once or twice a day."
Parkin interrupted her workday to drive to the day care center to give Claire breathing treatments. But when the teachers there offered to administer them for her and demonstrated exceptional knowledge and skills, Parkin was impressed and relieved.
"Itís a great comfort to know these day care providers are so highly skilled in providing care for children with asthma," Parkin said. "I know my daughter is in good hands thanks to the Health Science Centerís involvement."
Ward said the project is a win-win situation for day care providers, parents, children and students. "Day care providers gain excellent training, parents feel confident their children are safe, and nursing students gain valuable experience they can apply in the workforce after graduation." Ward plans to continue the program through the fall and expand it to include training for parents of children with asthma.
"Asthma management training in the day care is just as important nowadays as CPR and first-aid training," Ward said. "The goal of our program is to reach as many parents and teachers as possible with these National Institutes of Health-approved guidelines."
As more children are diagnosed with asthma each year, more parents and teachers can count on each other to protect their children from hospitalization because of asthma.
For more information about "Counting on You: Responding to Kids with Asthma," call (210) 567-0184.