Thursday, July 11, 2013

Asthma: Let Your Child Do the Talking

When you visit the doctor with your child, do you talk to the doctor or nurse, or does your child? How you communicate with the doctor may make a difference in your child's care, said researchers in an article published in the July 2013 issue of the journal Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.

As parents, we want to be sure that the healthcare professionals get all the information that we feel is important. But in this study - which looked at children who have asthma - researchers picked up on information that only the child can present and the difference that it could make in their care.

"Our research shows that physicians should ask parents and children about the effects asthma is having on the child's daily life," said lead study author Margaret Burks, MD, in a press release. "Parents can often think symptoms are better or worse than what the child is really experiencing, especially if they are not with their children all day."

Researchers enrolled 79 children who were between five and 17 years old into their study. Fifty-three of the children had acute asthma and 26 had refractory asthma. The researchers asked the children to fill out the Pediatric Asthma Quality of Life Questionnaire and their caregivers completed the Pediatric Asthma Caregiver’s Quality of Life Questionnaire.

When comparing the questionnaire responses, the researchers found that while the scores between the two – the children and the caregivers – were similar, the children reported a better activity-related quality of life than did their caregivers. There was also a greater difference between how boys responded compared with their caregivers.

Taking this information, the researchers concluded that while the caregivers are important and can provide useful information to the healthcare professionals, it’s important to ask the children directly too, to see how they view their illness and its impact on their quality of life.

The American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology has put together a list that it feels are the five most important topics that children with asthma should discuss with their allergist:

1. Asthma prevents me from playing sports and taking part in other activities -- If your child cannot play sports or participate in gym class and recess activities, it's important they tell their allergist. This can be an indication their asthma isn't properly controlled. If they can participate in activities, it is also important they tell their allergist, to show their condition is being well managed.
2. When I am outside or at home my asthma symptoms become worse -- An estimated 60 to 80 percent of children with asthma also have an allergy. If nearly inescapable allergens, such as pollen, mold, dust and pet dander are triggering your child's asthma symptoms, an allergist may include immunotherapy (allergy shots) as part of a treatment plan.
3. I often feel sad or different from other kids because I have asthma -- Nearly half of children with asthma report feeling depressed or left out of activities due to their condition. Anyone with asthma should be able to feel good and be active. No one should accept less.
4. There have been times I have missed school because of my condition -- Asthma is the most common chronic illness in childhood and is a leading caused in missed school days. Research shows children under the care of a board-certified allergist see a 77 percent reduction in lost time from school.
5. My asthma disappeared -- It is important your child carry and use their inhaler as prescribed, even if symptoms aren't bothersome. While asthma symptoms are controllable with the proper treatment, there isn't a cure for asthma and it likely won't disappear. An asthma attack can strike at any time.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Mental Health in a Disaster Situation - Quebec, California, Alberta...

Many of you may have heard about the disaster that just affected a small town in Quebec, Lac Megantic. A train with crude oil crashed in the center of this little lakeside town of 6,000 people and erupted into a fireball. The result was flattened buildings and several deaths - a war zone depiction, we're told. Many people still remain unaccounted for, which means the death toll will likely rise.

The day after this event, there was the Asiana plane crash in San Francisco. Before that, massive flooding in Calgary and High River, Alberta. And the list goes on. Major disasters affecting many people - those who are affected directly and those who go in to help the victims.

Mental health is a funny thing. We can be so strong in the face of such adversity as we work through such events, but then a seemingly small incident can be the last straw and send someone into a place they didn't know existed. For this reason, it is so important to address mental health issues from the start. We have to know that this is a vital part of the whole realm of care that people need.

The American Psychological Association offers a volunteer disaster relief service that responds to disasters across the continent. They have an informative tip sheet for the general public to learn about the psychological effect of disasters: Managing traumatic stress: Tips for recovering from disasters and other traumatic events. It discusses what can happen during and after the event, how different people may respond to the event, how to help yourself, and when you should seek professional help. There is also a post-traumatic growth inventory survey that may help people figure out how they are feeling.

If you are helping others, either in an official capacity or just doing what you can to help out, it's important to take care of yourself too. You know that airline instruction about if you're traveling with a young child or someone who needs help - if oxygen masks drop, place yours on first before the one on the person in your care? That's because that person needs you to be strong enough to help them, so you need the oxygen. It's the same thing with mental health. If you're not mentally healthy, if you're burned out, depressed, anxious about what you've seen and heard, you can't be as effective a helper. So you need to take care of yourself.

The Emergency Social Services site at the British Columbia government website says it well:

"As disaster workers we have the potential to become secondary victims, working long, hard hours under poor conditions. In some cases, physical dangers exist."

The page goes on to give tips on how you can help relieve the stress, even in the midst of chaos.

Remember, that just because the event is over, it doesn't mean that it no longer has an effect. Take care of yourself. Be aware that you may be vulnerable. And most importantly - ask for help. It's the only way people can know that you need them.