Respiratory therapists help asthmatic children


Researchers in the Department of Respiratory Care in the School of Allied Health Sciences recently completed a study on pediatric asthma that yielded remarkable results.

The study showed the benefits of an in-home asthma treatment program provided by respiratory therapists in significantly reducing the number and cost of hospital and emergency room visits, doctor visits and school absences in children with asthma.

An asthma disease management program is not a new idea, but this may be the first time its effectiveness when administered by a respiratory therapist in the home has been measured. Nineteen children between the ages of 3 and 18 took part in the study. Data were collected 12 months before and after the program was implemented.

Respiratory therapists made eight home visits to evaluate environmental conditions in the home and show the correct way of using peak flow meters, inhalers and nebulizers. These measures are basic to managing the disease, but if they are not done routinely they are of little value.

“You’d be astounded how many asthmatics don’t know how to properly use a peak flow meter and inhaler,” said David C. Shelledy, Ph.D., RRT, chairman of the Department of Respiratory Care and principal author on the study. Families also were given detailed instructions on how to cope with acute episodes of asthma. “Everyone with asthma should have an action plan,” Dr. Shelledy said. “They should know what to do.”

The study was based on a program of in-home evaluation and patient education developed by second author Shawn McCormick, B.S., RRT, a respiratory therapist and former director of patient care services at Christus Santa Rosa Hospital. Other study authors were Health Science Center faculty members Terry LeGrand, Ph.D., RRT, and Jay I. Peters, M.D.