Preventative Care Keeps Taivon, Taylan and Talik Towns Happy and Healthy
St. Louis is best known for the Gateway Arch, but it has a monumental asthma problem, with more than 12 percent of the population being affected – that’s twice the national average.
SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center sees between 1,500 and 2,000 emergency room visits for asthma attacks each year, but allergists say that these days, asthma does not have to keep kids from living normal, active and healthy lives.
“Physical exertion in the form of play, P.E. class or organized sports is an important part of maintaining good lung health,” said Bradley A. Becker, M.D., FAAAAI, Co-director of the Asthma Center for Children at Cardinal Glennon. “Most kids with asthma should be able to control their asthma so they can participate in normal activities.”
Three local children who have benefited from preventative care (treating the asthma before a child shows signs of symptoms) are Taivon, 10, Taylan, 8, and Talik Towns, 6, who stay busy all day long with dance, drum lessons and neighborhood bike rides.
Taking Preventive Measures
Shantel Towns, who works in health care, said she was not too surprised when her children were diagnosed at a young age.
“My husband and I have both had asthma since we were young, so we know how to take care of it,” she said. “My children are all very active, but when they catch their breath, they know to come inside and get their inhaler.”
At home, the Towns children also help their mom change pillow covers and bed covers to reduce allergens, and wash the bed sheets using hot water.
“Sometimes it’s hard to do all of that, but we manage,” Towns said. “The older they get, the easier it is, because they can help me, and they recognize the signs and symptoms of their asthma and can communicate that to me.”
In addition to taking inhalers and other medicines on a daily basis, Taivon and Taylan were both part of a study at Cardinal Glennon with a medication called Xolair, which is now being frequently used to treat patients with severe asthma. Dr. Becker said the injection helps prevent symptoms before they occur.
“A lot of people with asthma end up in the Emergency Room at some time or another, but it’s much better to treat it preventatively. We want to improve the child’s quality of life, as well as prevent exacerbations,” he said.
How Asthma is Diagnosed
Pediatricians or family practice physicians are usually the first to diagnose asthma in a child. Children with moderate to severe asthma symptoms may be referred to a specialist, an Allergist or Pulmonologist, who can determine the best way to treat his or her symptoms.
For example, Dr. Becker recommends allergy shots for children with allergic asthma, who are not controlled with reduction of allergic exposures and the use of safe doses of medications.
If your child has persistent wheezing, coughing or shortness of breath for three months or more, or if any of these symptoms recurrently interfere with activity or sleep, ask your pediatrician to screen your child for asthma. The proper diagnosis will help you, and your child, breathe easier.
Staying Active With Asthma
Although asthma is prevalent, especially in St. Louis, taking a few precautions before you send your son or daughter back out on the athletic field can help them enjoy exercise and handle attacks appropriately.
- Develop an asthma action plan with your child’s physician that explains what to do at the first symptoms of asthma, and make sure to share copies with his or her P.E. teacher, coach and school nurse. School officials, parents and doctors need to maintain open communication, so your child can be healthy and enjoy a good quality of life.
- Your child should have a reliever inhaler available during all activities, just in case. This treatment should be easily accessible by the nurse, P.E. teacher, and coach. In many cases, using a medicine such as albuterol just before exertion will prevent exercise symptoms for four hours.
- If asthma symptoms occur on a regular basis, preventative treatment should be started.