Children breathe breath of fresh air at asthma camp

July 22, 2005|by BONNIE H. BRECHBILL

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - A day of games and activities combined with classroom education helped local children learn to manage their asthma more effectively.

Camp Super Lungs, held Thursday at Falling Spring Presbyterian Church, brought 25 children ages 6 through 13 together with respiratory therapists and other health educators in a medically-supervised environment.

An important part of managing asthma is knowing the warning signs of a flare-up, Waynesboro Hospital respiratory therapist Dave Delauter told his class. Symptoms vary from person to person, and may include the chest hurting or feeling tight, getting tired or out of breath or having watery, itchy eyes.


Delauter taught a class of six, all of whom are on medication for asthma, some as many as four medications.

"Do you have asthma?" one student asked Delauter.

"I have exercise-induced asthma and I also have hay fever," he said. "When I'm out on my bike, especially in July and August, it feels like my chest is closing off.

"We need to control our breathing. We don't want our breathing to control us," Delauter added.

Barbara Crutchley, also a respiratory therapist at Waynesboro Hospital, taught belly breathing to a class of five 6- and 7-year olds.

"Take a breath in and see your belly stick out. When the air goes out, your belly goes in. When your asthma flares up, lie down and do this. It slows your breathing, and it helps," she said.

The children stretched out on the floor and practiced.

"The kids learn so fast," Crutchley said during a break. "The more they know about asthma the healthier they're going to stay."

Nickie Hockenberry, coordinator of the free summer day camp and chairperson of the Cumberland Valley Asthma Alliance, said the children were "having fun and learning a lot." Summit Health is a co-sponsor of the sixth annual Camp Super Lungs.

In breaks between classes, the campers played games, including a relay race in which they set a place mat with a healthy meal using plastic food. One girl quickly chose an egg, green beans, a baked potato, cottage cheese and chocolate milk.

A stop light was used to help children know how severe their asthma attack is.

One camper said the green light means "you feel good and don't have any asthma. You go out and play."

Yellow, according to another camper, means "Your asthma's flaring up. Tell your mom. Stop running and tell a teacher if you're at school."

One girl, who had written "I Love Asthma Camp" on her folder, added that yellow indicates that "you don't feel really good. Slow down, rest, and let someone know. Play a slow game."

Red means to use a peak flow meter and tell a trusted adult that you are having breathing problems.

During the activities period, the children especially enjoyed answering questions about smoking on the Smoker's Roulette Wheel, which says, "Smoking is a gamble that nobody wins."

Alicia Duhon, 10, of Orrstown, Pa., said she learned "how much (medicine) I need to take and how many minutes I have to wait before taking it again. It was fun."

David Singley, 13, of Fayetteville, Pa., said he learned to "do better breathing, belly breathing. And that my medicine is not supposed to be under the tongue but in the mouth or it won't work."

His sister, Alyssa, 10, said she learned to stay away from people who smoke.

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