Childhood trauma–it happens all around us, but rarely do we take the time to observe it’s devastating effects on our society and culture. Kudos to #Tulsa World for addressing this very complicated and at times hopeless situation. Doris Franstein, who recently retired as Tulsa County’s longtime chief judge over juvenile cases, is quoted as saying, “My largest frustration is the fact that we need public awareness and proper resources to address it — more medical and appropriate mental health care.” We’re talking about adverse childhood experience (ACEs), which can include #emotional/physical abuse, exposure to #passive smoke, obesity, drug use in the home, and suicide attempts from another household member to name just a few. And of course, #Oklahoma is ranked #1 & 2 in incarceration rates, #1 in heart-disease mortality and #5 in teen smoking with an estimated 12.5% of teens in Oklahoma reported as smoking. Uncovering an issue such as adverse childhood experience shouldn’t go to waste–how can we do more?
As I pondered about ACEs, I realized #asthma causes much more trauma in our children than we often realize. A steroid shot in Urgent Care, or hospitalization for several days isn’t really going to hurt me or my child? Or is it…
Children with asthma don’t complain much about their asthma–it’s “normal” for them. But asthma patients don’t cry on their pillows for nothing. How would you like to deal with this at school:
- Can’t exercise at recess–this means your friends have already discussed the latest school gossip without you. C’mon, we know that recess is more than just about exercise.
- Can’t play sports with peers–Like it or not, athletic prowess will get you one thing in high school: acceptance and recognition. Not so with our asthma kids, where an Adverse Childhood Event (ACE) is crouching at the door waiting to add embarrassment to their already low sense of self-esteem.
- Being sleepy during the school day because of #allergy medications that cause drowsiness is quite common for allergy & asthma patients. Studies have even shown that taking a medication as simple as Benadryl can cause impairment as severe as legal intoxication when driving. I do hope our teachers and coaches realize that when a kid falls asleep in class, it may not be your lecture; and please, don’t humiliate them in front of the class–bullying is out!
- Asthma and allergies do make you “different.” Let’s try and improve our health score in Oklahoma and prevent unnecessary “trauma” for our asthma kids.
State agencies watch us you know and here’s some policy standards we do well on:
- State requires physician’s written instruction to be on file to dispense prescription medication to students.
- State policy ensures students’ right to self-carry and self-administer prescribed #asthma medication.
- State recognizes problem of asthma in schools and has begun to address it.
Many more compliments to the State of Oklahoma for the hard work and focus agencies have placed on this problem. But what are some areas where we can improve?
- We don’t mandate schools to identify and maintain records for students with chronic conditions including asthma and anaphylaxis. This means you could have a #peanut reaction and no one would be aware of your allergy!
- Our state doesn’t require schools to have emergency protocols for either asthma or anaphylaxis to insect stings or foods. Believe me, it’s difficult if you’re not trained to give that epinephrine shot even to a patient who needs it–ouch!
- Oklahoma doesn’t recommend standards and programs to promote environmentally preferable materials for school construction, maintenance and cleaning. Many frustrated parents and teachers alike, would like to remove the #mold problem in their classroom for their child, but there are no standards for “mold-free” learning.
That’s enough dwelling on what we don’t do. Sometimes the thought of dealing with a chronic disease such as asthma can be overwhelming, but take your time, educate yourself and use small baby steps.
So I’m a parent, grandparent, provider, or coach of a student with asthma. What incremental steps can I take to reduce asthma trauma?
- Be a voice–use social media (be courteous of course), friends, school meetings to express the needs of asthma patients, even if you don’t have a child with this condition.
- Listen to your doctor and use your medications regularly. The first question I get when prescribing almost any medication is?….when can I stop? Antibiotics are given for only 10-14 days at a time, but anti inflammatory medications are different. Inflammatory conditions such as asthma and allergies don’t back off quickly and sometimes medications (preventive inhalers) have to be used for years on end.
- Talk it up–there are many web sites devoted to asthma with chat rooms and expert help for any questions:
- aaaai.org (American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology)
- acaai.org (American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology)
- aafa.org (Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America)
- Encourage your child–yes, what you say to children as an adult means something, whether good or bad! I can still remember the full name of my second grade teacher and my high school cafeteria cook–I was influenced greatly by adults. Just show some interest in an asthmatic child and you never know what may become of it.
- Talk with your school officials–create a dialogue, not a confrontation. If together, we can reduce the cost of care for asthma & allergies, while at the same time, improve the quality of life for these patients with chronic asthma, we’ll rarely have to dial “911.”