Allercy and Asthma Health
The Official Publication of AAN - MA

Is Your Child Ready for an Asthma Camp?

Summer fun + education can = better asthma control

by Eileen Censullo, MBA, RRT

Does your child sit on the sidelines or not want to participate in sports because of his asthma? Does your child miss a lot of school days, causing you to miss many days at work? Are you spending a lot of time taking your child to the doctor or emergency room?

If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, then your child may be ready for asthma camp. All people with asthma should know what to do when their asthma is starting to bother them. Yes, even young school-aged children. An asthma camp can help you and your child to learn to manage his asthma.

You are not different

All children who attend asthma camp must receive clearance from their doctor to participate, and most camps will follow up with the child's doctor by sending a progress letter. Children who are approved for attendance will learn what asthma is, how to recognize the symptoms and realize not everyone has the same ones, and how to recognize the triggers. Another lesson taught at asthma camp involves medications. Children learn there are two types—controller medications and rescue medications—and what each type of medication does. Everyone should know what their asthma medications are and why, when, and how to take them.

Asthma can be scary, but learning what asthma is and what to do on your own helps. At camp, the child will learn a step-by-step approach to recognizing signs and symptoms and what do to when they occur, and she will also learn what her family and friends should do when she is having symptoms. All children need to know how to manage their own asthma.

One of the most important things taught at asthma camps is that you are not different because you have asthma. Yes, there are some things you need to do every day to keep healthy and active, such as taking your peak flows and your medication, but you are not different. You can do everything other children do.

Find a camp near you

There are many different types of asthma camps. Some are day camps and some are sleepover camps. Some are free and some require a fee. Most asthma camps are run by health care professionals, including physicians, nurses, and respiratory therapists, and nearly all will incorporate fun activities along with the learning. The idea is to see how the children breathe during exercise and while having fun in order to help them understand that they can participate in anything they want to do.

Asthma camps have proven to reduce missed days at school, cut down on emergency room visits, decrease doctor visits, and increase participation in sports children didn't participate in before.

More importantly, children learn an invaluable life lesson: asthma cannot and will not change them. Parents learn about asthma through their children's experiences and through information sent home to them, and their children develop a bond with other asthmatic children. The camp is a fun filled week for both children and camp volunteers.

If you think your child can benefit from learning more about asthma, contact your doctor or visit the Consortium on Children's Asthma Camps website for asthma camps near you. You won't regret it and neither will your child.

Eileen Censullo is a Registered Respiratory Therapist and American Association for Respiratory Care member from Phoenixville, PA. She currently works for DSG, Inc., serves as vice president for the Pennsylvania Society for Respiratory Care, and is a long-time volunteer with the asthma camp sponsored annually by Crozer Keystone Health System in Springfield, PA.

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