Kaitlyn Barney is used to asthma by now. “I was diagnosed when I was 8 years old,” said the Guntown resident, now 10. “I was playing on the soccer field and all of a sudden I couldn’t breath and I was gasping for air.”
Her mom, Janice Maxey, rushed Kaitlyn to the emergency room. “They put her in the hospital and kept her for four or five days,” she recalled, also noting that Kaitlyn previously had been treated for frequent upper respiratory infections.
But when she learned her daughter actually had asthma, “I was shocked,” Maxey said. “It was allergies that caused her asthma. It turns out she’s allergic to pretty much everything outdoors.”
According to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute’s Web site, www.nhlbi.nih.gov, asthma is a chronic lung disease that inflames and narrows the airways. Asthma causes recurring periods of wheezing (a whistling sound when you breathe), chest tightness, shortness of breath, and coughing that often occurs at night or early in the morning.
“We can’t cure asthma, but we can certainly make it better,” said Dr. James Tutor, a pediatric pulmonologist at Le Bonheur Children’s Medical Center in Memphis. Once a month, through a partnership with North Mississippi Medical Center, he travels to Tupelo to see patients at the Le Bonheur Pediatric Specialty Clinics on Council Circle.
Asthma has waxing and waning periods, Tutor said, and greatly impairs a lot of people’s abilities to perform activities.
“Some kids miss school a lot because of asthma attacks,” he said. “Some end up in the hospital. You can die of asthma.”
Asthma medication falls into two categories, controller and rescue.
“The best controller medications are steroids, and we prefer to give them inhaled,” Tutor said. Another controller is a leukotriene inhibitor, such as Singulair, which Tutor said is not as effective as steroids.
Quick-acting bronchodilators, according to kidshealth.org, are usually given through an inhaler or a nebulizer and are the most often-prescribed rescue medications.
Why kids get asthma is up for debate, Tutor said.
“I think you are born with a tendency to develop asthma,” he said. “It’s just like why do you get arthritis? Well, you do.”
Irritants to asthmatics include cigarette smoke, perfume or other strong smells.
“The worst thing that parents can do is to smoke around them,” Tutor said, adding that smoke residue on clothing is just as bad because when “they smell it, it’s just like smoking in front of them.”
For children like Kaitlyn, her asthma is brought on by allergens such as pollen and animal dander.
“Not everyone is set off by the same thing,” Tutor said. “You don’t have to have allergies to be asthmatic, and you don’t have to be asthmatic to be allergic.”
To prevent asthma attacks such as the one she had on the soccer field, Kaitlyn gives herself allergy shots twice a week.
“It’s a combination of all the things that she’s allergic to,” Maxey said. “If she didn’t take these and take Singulair on a daily basis, she’d have more attacks.”
“They keep me under control,” said Kaitlyn, a fifth-grader at Saltillo Elementary School.
To learn more about her condition, last summer she attended a special camp for kids with asthma.
“She loved it,” her mom said. “They make them feel like their disease is OK.”
This year, Camp Breath Ezzzze will be May 25-28 at Tishomingo State Park for kids ages 6-12. The camp features activities such as line dancing, swimming, horseback riding and an obstacle course, with classes on asthma education and 24-hour care from a physician, registered nurses and respiratory therapists.
“I had fun,” said Kaitlyn, who’s looking forward to going back. “When you have asthma, you don’t have to be shut up in a house. You can go outside and play.”
Contact Ginny Miller at (662) 678-1582 or firstname.lastname@example.org.