Asthma Caregiver’s Handbook Pre-Orders Available

Asthma Caregivers Handbook coverIn the next few months, Respiratory Health Association will be releasing its new Asthma Caregiver’s Handbook. This is a free resource for healthcare providers to support children and families with asthma.

What is the Asthma Caregiver’s Handbook?
The Asthma Caregiver’s Handbook is a compendium of resources for parents, guardians, and other caregivers of children with asthma. The Handbook includes 19 chapters organized into 4 sections, plus appendices:

  • The Introduction presents basic information about asthma and the respiratory system.
  • Managing Your Child’s Asthma addresses how to manage asthma symptoms, asthma action plans, asthma treatment, how to respond to an asthma emergency, asthma triggers and how to manage them, keeping homes asthma-safe, and asthma and food allergies.
  • Supporting Your Child with Asthma provides caregivers with guidance for talking to their child about asthma; empowering their child’s self-care; asthma, smoking and vaping; and preparing their child for day care, school, and college and adulthood.
  • Other Tips for Caregivers shares how caregivers can care for themselves, tips from other caregivers, and a doctor’s answers to common questions.
  • The Appendices are rich with tools and resources ranging from a day care provider checklist and how to clean spacers and inhalers to word searches and other activities for children with asthma.

How can I get a copy of the Asthma Caregiver’s Handbook for my patients?
Respiratory Health Association will be making the Handbooks available at no cost to Illinois nurse practitioners, pediatricians, and asthma specialists. It is our hope they will provide a copy to parents and caregivers of newly diagnosed children with asthma and other families they believe might benefit from the information.

Order your handbook today!

Note for those residing outside Illinois: Currently, the handbook is only available at no cost to caregivers residing in Illinois. In the coming months, it will be made available for a cost (to cover printing and shipping) for caregivers living outside of Illinois. By the end of 2024, we hope to have it available on our website.

State of Illinois First to Fund School Asthma Program – RESCUE Program Aims to Keep Kids with Asthma in School

September 5, 2023 – Chicago, IL – Respiratory Health Association (RHA) and Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) have launched the RESCUE Illinois Schools program. RESCUE, which stands for Resources for Every School Confronting Unexpected Emergencies, will serve over 3,000 schools in Illinois in its first year.

The purpose of the program is to provide asthma medication and training for schools to respond to asthma emergencies. Training will be provided to all Illinois school nurses and other school staff on how to respond to a student having an asthma episode during school hours. The goal is to keep students healthy, in class, and out of the emergency room.  While 17 states have laws allowing schools to provide ‘undesignated’ asthma medications during emergencies, Illinois is the first state to fund such an effort.

“We applaud the State of Illinois for prioritizing the health of school children and not allowing asthma to interrupt a child’s education,” said Joel Africk, RHA President & CEO. “This funding will help the thousands of Illinois students with asthma stay in school and take some of the burden off parents.”

“This is the very type of system change that positions Illinois to not only improve and save lives but also to be a clear leader in innovative student health solutions. We are grateful and honored to be a part of this work,” said Chris Martinez, Executive Director of Asthma & Allergy Foundation of America – MidStates Chapter.

A 2018 Illinois state law allows schools to keep their own supply of asthma rescue medications on hand for emergencies.  Previously, only individuals with an asthma diagnosis and prescriptions in their own name were permitted to obtain asthma rescue medications.

Asthma episodes are the number one reason for U.S. school absences because of a chronic disease. The CDC estimates that more than 4 million school-aged U.S. children have asthma. And yet, only 17 states allow schools (not just the students with asthma) to carry a supply of emergency asthma medicine at school.

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About Respiratory Health Association

Respiratory Health Association has been a local public health leader in Illinois since 1906, focusing on lung health and clean air issues. RHA works to prevent lung disease, promote clean air, and help people live better through education, research, and policy change. As a policy leader, we have been one of the state’s leading advocates for federal oversight of tobacco and vaping products, smoke-free laws, Tobacco 21, and other tobacco product policies. RHA is dedicated to improving asthma management among children and their adult caregivers. Our school-based asthma management education programs are well-established and supported by research. To date, RHA has educated more than 14,000 students with asthma through Fight Asthma Now© and 30,000 adult caregivers through Asthma Management. For more information, visit resphealth.org.

 

About Asthma and Allergy Foundation

Founded in 1953, AAFA is the oldest and largest non-profit patient organization dedicated to saving lives and reducing the burden of disease for people with asthma, allergies and related conditions through research, education, advocacy, and support. AAFA offers extensive support for individuals and families affected by asthma and allergic diseases, such as food allergies and atopic dermatitis (eczema). Through its online patient support communities, network of local chapters and affiliated support groups, AAFA empowers patients and their families by providing practical, evidence-based information and community programs and services. AAFA is the only asthma and allergy patient advocacy group that is certified to meet the standards of excellence set by the National Health Council. For more information, visit: aafa.org

New Study Reveals Widening Racial Gaps Among Chicago Children with Asthma

Young boy taking an inhaler with a spacer or holding chamber attached

Black children are more than four times as likely to end up in a hospital emergency room due to asthma than white children, according to latest data.

Chicago has long been known as an epicenter for asthma, with higher rates of the disease in minority communities on the city’s south and west sides. A new report examining data from the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) shows little progress in addressing these disparities, with even more troubling trends among children.

The report, released today by Respiratory Health Association (RHA), focuses on the rates of asthma-related emergency department (ED) visits from 2016 to 2021, and follows up on a report released in 2018. It documents increasing racial health disparities among Chicago children.

Between 2016 and 2021, there were 23,550 asthma-related ED visits among Chicago children 19 years old and younger. Most of those visits, 70% (16,436), were among school age children 5-19 years. In total, Black children accounted for 53% of these 16,436 asthma-related ED visits. In children 4 years old and younger, 40% of visits were by Black children.

“Every child should have the same opportunity to breathe easy, and it’s clear we need to do more to understand and address the disparities,” said Joel Africk, RHA’s President and Chief Executive Officer. “It’s unfair these kids have to miss out on time with classmates and friends – and fall behind – just because of their asthma.”

While disparities in asthma-related ED visits exist across all races, the greatest gaps are between Black and white children – and that gap increased during the latest reporting period. As of 2021, Black children ages 5 to 19 years old were 4.3 times more likely to have an asthma-related ED visit than white children. This is a 9% increase from the gap previously reported in 2016.

Additionally, there were 3,148 ambulance visits to schools for asthma-related emergencies where race was documented. In these cases, 84% of students requiring an ED visit were Black. Notably, just 36% of Chicago Public School students are Black.

Having an inhaler on hand in school is important for kids with asthma.

“Unfortunately, many Chicago area kids are feeling some of the worst effects from asthma,” noted Erica Salem, Senior Director, Strategy, Programs and Policy at RHA. “It’s crucial to support more research into these racial disparities and expand community- and school-based asthma programming. With the City of Chicago aiming to eliminate racial health disparities, an investment in asthma is long overdue.”

The report’s release comes during Asthma Awareness Month, observed every May to help people learn about the disease and discuss ways to control it. A combination of asthma education and proper treatment have been shown to help kids manage their asthma and live well.

You can read RHA’s full report on childhood asthma disparities in Chicago here.

Lung Disease and Telemedicine

woman on computer showing current medicinesTelemedicine is a useful service that connects people with physicians when in-person visits may not be possible. It digitally delivers services to patients using devices like computers and smartphones. It allows patients to see and talk to their providers without being in the office. Common uses of telemedicine include follow up visits, chronic disease management, consultations, and medication management. If you live with lung disease, telemedicine can be an important part of staying healthy.

Telemedicine has grown significantly in recent years. It has become even more important during the COVID-19 pandemic. It allows patients to avoid crowded waiting rooms and practice social distancing when infection rates may be surging. People are also able to avoid the need to drive, take the bus, or take other forms of transportation.

Is telemedicine effective?

Telemedicine is both beneficial and effective for specific services. These include behavioral health therapy, counseling patients with chronic conditions, and home monitoring for patients with chronic conditions[i]. Recent studies found it also improves access to care, reduces wait times, and provides faster treatment[ii]. While telemedicine is useful, there are still appointments that need to take place at a doctor’s office or hospital. These visits include blood work, imaging tests, and physical exams. Talk to your doctor to learn more.

How can I prepare for an appointment?

Most visits require some type of video ability. You can use any device that has audio-video capabilities and an internet connection. Devices include smartphones, computers, or tablets. After the appointment is scheduled, you’ll receive directions to log on for your visit. The physician will start the visit with a few questions to confirm your identity and will then move on to the main reason for the visit.

To prepare for your visit, follow these tips:

  1. Write down your questions and concerns beforehand.
  2. If you have an informal family caregiver, ask them to join you.
  3. Test drive your equipment (computer, tablet, phone) before the appointment.
  4. Find a quiet spot with plenty of light to take the appointment.
  5. Be prepared to tell your provider about your family and medical history.
  6. Have as many of your vital numbers on hand as possible (weight, temperature, blood pressure, etc.)
  7. Try to be specific when describing symptoms or signs.
  8. Have pen and paper handy to write down any important notes.
  9. Have all your medications or a current list within reach during the appointment.

Does insurance cover these services?

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) expanded telemedicine coverage for people during the COVID-19 public health emergency. These temporary expanded services allowed people to access health care services from home, across state lines, and see new doctors if needed. In November 2021, CMS approved continued coverage for some of these services through December 2023[iii]. You can read the full list online.

Click here to download our fact sheet with references.

Christmas Trees and Asthma Flare-ups

Christmas tree and asthma

Do your allergies get worse around the holidays? Your Christmas tree may be to blame. Both real and artificial Christmas trees can cause allergy and asthma flare-ups. Real trees, regardless of type, can collect allergens and spores prior to being cut down. When they are cut down, they’re sprayed down with water, bundled, and packed for delivery to a tree seller. Unfortunately, this process allows mold to grow along the way.

Artificial trees may trigger asthma and allergy episodes as well. When unpacked, new trees can release chemicals into the air. Older trees may gather dust from being in storage all year. Packing and storing artificial Christmas trees in airtight containers can help reduce the amount of dust that collects.

There are a few steps you can take to minimize the risk of an asthma flare-up related to your Christmas tree:

1. Real or artificial, air out your tree before you set it up inside.

2. Try to wait until December to put up your tree. Mold starts to grow rapidly after a week inside the home.

3. Spraying your real tree with a half water, half vinegar solution can help cut down mold.

4. Wipe down your artificial tree (and other decorations) with a damp cloth to remove dust and allergens.

5. You can wear a face mask when setting up and taking down your tree and decorations can reduce the risk of a flare-up.

6. After disposing or packing your tree up, make sure to thoroughly vacuum and dust the area.

7. Make sure you have your asthma medications handy just in case you do have an asthma flare-up.

Six Ways to Keep Your Lungs Healthy

keep your lungs health

October is National Healthy Lung Month, a great time to raise awareness about lung disease and talk about ways you can keep your lungs healthy.

It’s easy to take your lung health for granted until you get sick or have trouble breathing. Here are a few ways you can protect your lungs:

  • Talk to your doctor about any changes in your lung health or symptoms like coughing or difficulty breathing.
  • Ask your doctor if a lung cancer screening is right for you.
  • If you smoke, consider quitting. After quitting, you gain health benefits such as improved lung function and improved circulation. Over time, your risk for certain lung diseases will also go down.
  • Prevent infection and stay healthy by getting a COVID-19 vaccination and an annual flu shot.
  • Stay active and exercise regularly. Talk to your doctor before beginning a new exercise routine.
  • If you live with lung diseases like asthma or COPD, get to know the ways you can manage your condition.

Want to learn more about ways you can keep your lungs healthy? Click here to explore other resources.

Respiratory Therapists are Lung Health Heroes

October 24-30 is Respiratory Care Week – a time to celebrate respiratory therapists who work tirelessly helping those living with lung diseases breathe easier. Whether testing for lung function in a young child with asthma, or helping someone with COPD use an oxygen tank, respiratory therapists give people the power to take control and live to the fullest.

Their work is especially important considering how common lung diseases are in the United States:

• 25 million people live with asthma
• 16 million live with COPD and another 16 million have undiagnosed symptoms
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths among men and women

Respiratory therapists help people better understand and manage their illnesses, allowing them to live without distraction from symptoms. They also provide treatments to those in need of care, improving lung health and way of life.

For respiratory therapists like Rose Riggins, CRTT of AMITA LaGrange in Illinois, it’s way more than a job – it’s getting to know people, their lives and their stories.

“Working with the patients throughout the years has made them feel like family,” she says.

If you are living with lung disease, here are some of respiratory therapists’ most common tips for preventing additional complications and living the healthiest way possible:

• Get a flu shot every year to prevent additional complications of lung disease
• Live smoke-free and avoid secondhand smoke or close contact with smokers
• Eat right to maintain the most energy for staying healthy
• Avoid chemicals – like scented candles and harsh household cleaners – that may cause lung flare-ups
Monitor air quality and avoid the outdoors on poor air quality days

Join RHA this week and every day in saying thank you to respiratory therapists everywhere!

To learn more about becoming a respiratory therapist, view these resources.

Flu Shot is a Gift for Your Lungs

Vaccines are a safe and important part of medical care for everyone. Regular immunizations prevent common bugs like the flu and limit the spread of disease through our communities. For people living with lung disease, a flu shot is especially important. Someone with asthma or COPD:

  • Has a greater risk of catching common infections like the flu
  • May feel added effects from flu symptoms
  • Is more likely to develop pneumonia or other lung problems

This year, getting a flu shot is more important than ever ⁠— especially as COVID-19 continues to spread and people return to more normal activities. The CDC estimates less than half of adults get an annual flu shot. While a flu vaccine cannot prevent you from getting COVID-19, it can help you avoid the flu so your immune system is better able to cope with other illnesses. It also reduces your risk of hospitalization and possibly developing more severe illness, and further adding to the burden on our health care facilities.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports flu shots may lower the risk of getting sick by 40 to 60 percent. It also helps those who cannot receive a shot, including children under 6 months old. Additionally, the CDC typically recommends a one-time pneumonia shot for those who live with lung disease.

August is National Immunization Awareness Month, and a great time to talk with your doctor about ways to stay healthy going into peak flu season. Flu cases are most common in the fall and winter, especially between December and February. Ask if you are up-to-date on past vaccines and to get an annual flu shot. Are you concerned about visiting a facility as COVID-19 continues to spread? Talk to your doctor about ways to stay safe.

If you or loved ones are displaying flu symptoms (fever and respiratory symptoms, such as cough and runny nose, and possibly other symptoms, such as body aches, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea) please stay home. Remember to wash your hands frequently, cover your mouth when you cough, and promptly contact your health care provider.

Additional Resources

If you do not have a regular doctor or healthcare provider, or have other questions, there are a number of local and national resources to help:

A Recap of 2021 Lung Health Advocacy Victories

Together we made great progress toward healthy lungs and clean air for all during the spring legislative session. With your support, we advocated new laws and changes to benefit the health of everyone in Illinois. Join us in celebrating these victories,:

  • RHA worked with the Illinois Department of Public Health on an advocacy effort to increase statewide funding for asthma education in Illinois. These efforts resulted in an additional $1 million in funding for school-based asthma education.
  • SB2294 will encourage more Illinoisans to quit smoking by providing expanded Medicaid coverage for FDA approved quit smoking medications, tobacco counseling services, and telephone-based quit smoking services provided through the Illinois Tobacco Quitline.
  • HB3202 will add e-cigarettes and other vapor devices to the state’s health education programs in schools.
  • SB512 will prohibit companies from marketing e-cigarettes to minors and from running misleading e-cigarette advertising.
  • HB1779 will provide easier access to care for people living with cancer by not requiring prior authorization for biomarker testing, which can guide health professionals in developing a treatment plan.
  • HB1745 will reduce out-of-pocket costs for Illinoisans’ prescription drugs, like asthma and COPD medications, by requiring insurance companies to offer plans with predictable co-pays or cap these amounts.
  • HB3498 makes innovative telehealth approaches permanent, so Illinoisans can continue to access critically needed care beyond the pandemic regardless of transportation, scheduling barriers – and with less stigma or risk to safety.
  • SB2563 expands vehicle emissions testing by permitting owners of vehicle service companies to operate an official portable emissions testing company – a win for clean air.
  • SB2133 focuses on health equity by ensuring the state reports data related to race, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disabilities for public health indicators, such as COVID infections.

Want to get involved with our advocacy efforts and help promote laws that will benefit everyone’s health? Learn more and sign-up to receive our emails here.

COVID-19 Summer Updates: Continuing to Protect Yourself

senior people toasting wine glasses summer covid-19 updates

About one third of the United States is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and nearly 72% of adults 65 or older are fully vaccinated. The CDC has stated fully vaccinated people (people who have received two doses of Pfizer or Moderna, or one dose of Johnson & Johnson at least two weeks ago) can resume most normal activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing. As holidays approach, families may want to gather to celebrate. However, there are still some COVID-19 summer updates to consider:

  • If a family member shows signs of illness before gathering, it may be best to reschedule until symptoms pass or the person receives a negative COVID-19 test.
  • Keep in mind that some businesses, restaurants, or situations may still require you to wear a mask. Call ahead or check online if you’re unsure.
  • Planning a family trip? Planes and public transportation still require masks. Take steps to protect yourself while traveling – wash your hands often, monitor your symptoms, and cover any coughs or sneezes.
  • Older adults with underlying conditions may want to continue to wear a mask at large indoor gatherings or crowded events.

If you have not already, it is important to get the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible. Studies show COVID-19 vaccines are effective at preventing the disease, especially severe disease and death, and reduce the risk of people spreading it.

It is also important to monitor the advice given by the CDC and other federal, state, and local authorities. We will continue to provide guidance and education on protecting you from COVID-19, so please reach out with any questions.