Breathing easier when going back to school

HUNTING PARK - August 18, 2010 Gabriella Azcona spent the summer doing what she loves best, reading books.

"I maybe have to pick like maybe 10 for a week. I'm supposed to pick 4, but I just read them all in 1 day."

Since she was 3, Gabriella and her mom Marisol have struggled to control her asthma.

"My chest starts hurting and I start to cough."

The 8-year-old regularly uses preventive medication, and she has a rescue inhaler.

Gabriella's asthma doesn't flare much in summer, but control gets tricky after school starts. That's when kids bring a host of viruses to school. Last winter, Gabriella also got H1N1 flu, and then pneumonia.

Before the first day of school, Gabriella gets a check-up with Dr. Jonathan Steinfeld at St. Christopher's Hospital. And mom makes sure her action plan is up-to-date. Teachers are told of her condition, the medications she takes, and what triggers her asthma.

"I always watch the news, and whenever they say it's a high pollen count, and she's sick already, I do ask that she be kept indoors," said Marisol.

"I had to once stay in for a week, without going outside. It was just pollen blowing everywhere," said Gabriella.

Dr. Steinfeld says many parents are unaware of another major trigger which is buses.

"A lot of the pollutants from the school buses, and the city buses, can make asthma worse."

The more communication parents have with schools, the better, because asthma has a big impact especially if you live in the city.

"The inner city might have asthma rates as high as 30-percent of all kids," said Dr. Steinfeld.

Dr. Steinfeld says good asthma control means less chance of needing hospital treatment, and a greater chance of seeing their symptoms diminish over time, or of outgrowing asthma altogether.

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