Youths armed with information after Camp Super Lungs

July 24, 2003|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Trying to breathe through a straw with the end pinched down was how 11-year-old Nicholas Forrester of Shippensburg, Pa., described an asthma attack.

"At first it feels like there's no air coming out," Kristen Keck, 14, of Greencastle, Pa., said in describing the first symptoms of one of her attacks.

Nicholas was at Camp Super Lungs along with 32 other children with asthma Tuesday to learn how to deal with the condition. It has been quite some time since Kristen had an asthma attack, but she has been a volunteer in the American Lung Association-sponsored program for three years.


"Since I have asthma, I know a lot about it and I like being around little kids," Keck said.

Teaching young children management techniques for asthma is the goal of Camp Super Lungs, according to Tammy Cornman, director for community health for Summit Health. The volunteers Tuesday included several school and Pennsylvania Health Department nurses, along with Keck and her mother, Paulette.

"When Summit did a survey of school nurses about four years ago ... they said they needed some help in how to manage their children with asthma," Cornman said. More than influenza or the common cold, she said asthma is the leading cause of school absences in the United States.

There are more than 20 million people with asthma in the country, including more than 6 million children, according to Stacy Henninger of the American Lung Association of Pennsylvania. In 2002, there were estimated to be more than 1,600 children with the condition in Franklin County, Pa.

The children at Camp Super Lungs, held at Falling Spring Presbyterian Church, spent the day learning what can trigger an asthma attack and what to do when they have one.

Nicholas said he learned that the first thing to do was sit down and relax. If symptoms persist, "you use your inhaler and if it doesn't work within five or 10 minutes, tell your parents."

They also learned breathing techniques to help them relax during an attack, he said.

"I learned what triggers my asthma," said Cody Baugher, 11, of Chambersburg. Those can include dust, flowers, allergies, exercise and colds, he said.

Aubrey Fry, 8, of Chambersburg enjoyed activities that included a "Jeopardy!"-style game about asthma and a demonstration involving pig lungs.

"They showed a healthy one and a sick one. And if you smoke, it can turn black and you can get a tumor," 10-year-old Cody Martin of Chambersburg said about the pig lung demonstration.

Each child also received a peak-flow meter to take home, a device that allows them to monitor the functions of their lungs.

Cornman said another Camp Super Lungs was held recently in Greencastle.

The program instructs children between first and sixth grades and is similar to the Open Airways program taught in schools, according to Cornman. She said Open Airways has been taught at the elementary level for several years but is being expanded to secondary school students this year.

Cornman said some teenagers are uncomfortable using medications in front of peers. Sports also are more competitive at that age and exercise can trigger attacks, she said.

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