FernCare’s Let’s Talk Health Series: Asthma
Presentation Explains Proper Inhaler Use, Med. Laws for Kids and More!
In an effort to help educate people about health issues, FernCare’s Focus on Health Series brought the Executive Director of The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America’s Michigan Chapter Kathleen Felice Slonager to speak at The Kulick Center on Dec 3, 2009.
Slonager says that many general practitioners and patients don’t know enough about asthma, and her goal is to change that. According to Slonager, asthma affects over 62 million adults and children. It is the number one reason students miss school, and also the most common reason that kids end up in the emergency room. “If we can get this problem under control, think of how much we can save,” Slonager said.
Slonager talked about what asthma is the variety of ways to help control it, and the things that people and doctors do wrong when it comes to treating the disease.
“Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease of the airway, characterized by coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and chest tightness and pain and it is at least partially reversible, unlike chronic problems like emphysema,” she said. “There is inflammation in the lungs as well as constriction of the muscles of the airways. Doctors mistreat asthma because they often give medicine that treats the constriction, but it is really the inflammation that is the problem.”
She urged people to talk with their doctor or seek out a specialist if they use their inhaler more than twice per week, if they wake up more than twice a month with breathing difficulties, or if they refill their inhaler more than twice a month. “There are many medicines on the market, but doctors tend to stick with Albuterol because that’s what used to be the standard.” She says that it can be hard for family doctors to keep up on all the latest medical information for every illness, so a specialist may be appropriate if asthma is uncontrollable.
People with asthma can take care of themselves and their environment in order to experience some relief. “Knowing your triggers can make it better. One more reason to ‘go green’ is that it eliminates a lot of the things that can make asthma worse.” She recommended removing irritants from the home, including chemical-based air fresheners, cleaners, cigarettes and any other products that affect air quality.
She also said that keeping healthy can prevent a viral infection that triggers asthma. That means getting exercise and controlling emotional stress. Medicines are the next step in controlling asthma.
“One thing I try to tell everyone is that we have a self-carry law, and children are allowed to have their inhalers, EpiPens, AniKits and other medicines with them in class. A lot of schools make the kids keep their meds at the office, so if there’s an emergency they have to wait for help.”
Another thing that is commonly misunderstood is the proper way to use a medical inhaler.
Slonager explained that the inhaler should not be shot directly into the mouth, but should be held three fingers away from the lips before dispensing. The patient should push the chamber down and allow a mist to form before sucking in. An even better way to use the inhaler is to use a spacer, which is a plastic tube several inches long that fits with the mouthpiece. The patient dispenses the medicine into the tube, then inhales the smoke over the length of three seconds and gently sucks the medicine into their lungs.
“Many people put the inhaler in their mouth and push down. They cough because it goes right in to irritate the throat,” Slonager said. Most of the medicine gets choked down and ends up in the throat and the stomach. Very little gets to the lungs where it is needed.
She says that every insurance company covers the spacers, but that big chain pharmacies don’t carry them. Those who want spacers can ask their doctors for the prescription and get it filled at a medical supply store. In Ferndale you can get them in stock at Wright and Filippis at 23520 Woodward. Or you can order them through Medical Supply Company at 1421 E. 8 Mile, but they don’t keep them on location. “I don’t know why regular pharmacies don’t carry them, or why doctors don’t offer them more. It’s one of those things where there is just not enough information out there.”
Slonager discussed the different types of asthma medicine, including ones for long term control and short term emergency care. She stressed the importance of taking the time to talk to doctors and make sure that they are knowledgeable about the treatments available. She recommends that people with chronic problems see an asthma specialist.
More information about asthma and allergies can be found at http://www.aafamich.org/index.html.
The FernCare Let’s Talk Health Series takes place the first Thursday of each month at The Kulick Center from 7-8:30 pm. Upcoming discussions include: Jan. 7 – Mental Health, The Hardest Thing to Talk About. Feb. 4 – Garden Time! Seedlings, Gardens and the Good Earth, and March 4 – Don’t Get Up! Sit Down! Chair Fitness and Exercise. For more information on FernCare go to www.ferncare.org.