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Clearing the Air for Kids: Coalition Teaches Families About Asthma

Solano County has one of the highest rates of childhood asthma in California, according to Chad Tarter, MD, a pediatric hospitalist at NorthBay Medical Center. That’s why he has recently started working with the Solano Asthma Coalition (SAC), an organization that is teaming with Community Action to Fight Asthma (CAFA). CAFA is a California-based network of 11 asthma coalitions that is helping to “shape local, regional and state policies to reduce environmental triggers of asthma for school-age children where they live, learn and play,” Dr. Tarter explains.

“If patients and their parents don’t understand asthma or its triggers, or are unfamiliar with how to manage the disease, it may lead to improper use of medicine or unnecessary visits to clinics or the Emergency Room,” Dr. Tarter says.

At SAC’s monthly meetings, Dr. Tarter teaches SAC members – Solano County health educators and epidemiologists, school nurses, and representatives from the California Teachers Association, Kaiser, Child Start, The Children’s Network, Yolo-Solano Air Quality Management District, Bay Area Air Quality Management District, and the American Lung Association – about the basics of asthma. He outlines the symptoms and triggers of the disease and what to do in case of a flare-up.

Eventually, he says, the organization hopes to create “a community-wide family-oriented asthma education program geared toward pediatric patients diagnosed with this disease. Our goal is to enlist all local providers (physicians, clinic and hospital nurses and respiratory therapists) in a volunteer community effort to better educate our patients and improve their understanding and management of asthma.”

How to Recognize Asthma Symptoms in Your Child:

  • It can be easy to confuse asthma with the flu or a cold, especially since colds or flu can trigger asthma symptoms.
  • A cold’s symptoms may include coughing, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, sneezing and a low-grade fever.
  • The flu’s symptoms may include a dry cough, high fever and chills, blocked and/or runny nose, aching muscles and joints, headache and a lack of appetite.
  • Asthma’s symptoms may include coughing (especially at night), a wheezing or whistling sound when your child breathes, rapid breathing, a shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, a tightness in the chest, fatigue or lack of energy, restlessness during sleep, unusual paleness, sweating or anxiety, or irritability.

Asthma Triggers

The first step toward understanding a child’s asthma is learning what can affect the child. Triggers are not always obvious, but the most common ones are usually airborne allergens, irritants or other factors, such as:

  • grass, tree or weed pollens
  • airborne molds
  • dust mites
  • foods or food additives, such as preservatives
  • animal dander
  • cockroach droppings
  • strong odors or perfumes
  • cooking fumes
  • aerosol sprays
  • cigarette smoke
  • wood or fireplace smoke
  • cold air
  • exercise
  • prolonged laughing or crying
  • emotional distress
  • medications.

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