Nearly one in 10 children in Florida suffers from asthma, a chronic illness that can leave a child short of breath and unable to participate in activities. If uncontrolled, it can also result in illness and missed class time.
To help kids better manage their asthma, the American Lung Association of the Southeast (ALAS) provides an Open Airways For Schools program, and it will be offered this year in eight elementary schools in Winter Park, Maitland and Eatonville with the support of a $9,624 grant from the Winter Park Health Foundation (WPHF).
Schools participating in the program this year include Aloma, Audubon Park, Brookshire, Cheney, Dommerich, Hungerford, Lakemont and Lake Sybelia elementary schools.
Designed for children ages 8-11, Open Airways includes six 40-minute group lessons for children with asthma. The sessions, led by trained volunteers, cover basic information about the chronic disease, how to recognize and manage symptoms, how to use medication, how to avoid asthma triggers, getting enough exercise and how to succeed academically.
So many children diagnosed with asthma are given an inhaler and are perhaps shown just once how to use it, but inhalers are difficult to use and aren’t effective if not used properly, said Lynn Penyak, ALAS Health Promotions Manager.
In the program, children are shown the most effective ways to use the inhalers and kids are also taught to figure out what triggers their asthma symptoms, which varies from child to child, according to Ms. Penyak.
The overall goals are to boost asthma self-management skills, decrease asthma emergencies and raise asthma awareness among parents and guardians.
One unique feature of the grant-funded program is that it is being offered in a cluster of schools, said Ms. Penyak. “We’ll be able to help a generation of students in an area.”
“Our hope is the program will not only improve health and quality of life for children with asthma, but it will also help address barriers to learning,” said Debbie Watson, WPHF Vice President. “This will help insure these students can reach their potential in school by decreasing illness and absences.”
For more information about Open Airways, click here.