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On the Coast Magazine

Controlling Asthma Throughout the School Year

09/01/2015 11:07PM ● Published by Nancy Babin

As the lazy days of summer fade into the hectic days of fall, we fold up the beach chairs for a seat on the bleachers and find ourselves scrambling to prepare for another busy school year. For parents of the one in 10 school-age children who has asthma, back to school carries a myriad of additional concerns.  

Asthma is the third ranking cause of hospitalization for children under 15 and has a wide range of triggers. Keeping asthmatic children out of the ER and on the playground can be a challenge, and for those effected by asthma, each day can feel like a gamble. 

“When you are worried that your child may experience an asthma attack, sending him or her to school can be scary,” says White-Wilson Medical Center pediatrician, Dr. Evan Meeks. “Attacks can also be scary for caregivers who may be unsure of how to handle the situation and for children in an unfamiliar environment. Controlling asthma and preparing for attacks is key to mitigating its effects.” 

Parents who take an active role in understanding their child’s individual needs, how they react to medications and potential triggers are better equipped to manage the disease. 

“It is important to understand your child’s medications, how to use them effectively and to empower yourself and your child’s caregivers to handle asthma-related scenarios,” said Dr. Meeks. “Too often we find that children are over medicated or families are using medications incorrectly, which can create a dangerous situation.”

To understand how to best manage asthma, Dr. Meeks suggests that all families work with their health care provider to develop an Asthma Action Plan. Asthma Action Plans allow children, parents and caregivers to evaluate the asthmatic’s status and properly treat the situation. The plan identifies a green zone, where asthma is under control; a yellow zone, when it is time to take action; and a red zone, when it is an emergency situation. 

The Asthma Action Plan can help monitor reoccurring triggers and reactions. It also details what medications and doses are needed and when. This takes the guess work out of treatment and provides an easy to understand plan of action. 

The start of a new school year is the ideal time to develop a personalized Asthma Action Plan that can be shared with teachers, coaches, caregivers and friends. Having a protocol in place helps reduce hospital visits, keep children in school and provide caregivers with the tools needed to manage asthma.  

“The needs of each individual asthmatic are unique, so a custom team-based approach to management is extremely important,” advises Dr. Meeks.  

To help local families learn to control asthma, Dr. Meeks teaches Asthmatic Group Appointment Program (AGAP) classes each month in Fort Walton Beach and Niceville. During the class, participants evaluate their medications, discuss proper usage and develop an individualized Asthma Action Plan. You do not have to be a patient of Dr. Meek’s or White-Wilson Medical Center to participate. Asthmatics of all ages and their caregivers are invited to attend. For more information or to register for an upcoming AGAP class, call 850-863-4400 or visit white-wilson.com/asthma. 

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