Camp Superkids Turns Youngsters Into Asthma Experts


Vol. 14 •Issue 23 • Page 82
Camp Superkids Turns Youngsters Into Asthma Experts * Camp Superkids Turns Youngsters Into Asthma Experts

BY jade hoffman

Camp Superkids looks like any other day camp. Kids throw frisbees and footballs, pick wildflowers and chase each other around trees. However, this is a camp with a difference. All the campers share something in common. They have asthma.

Camp Superkids is an educational day camp set up to teach children how to become asthma experts, to understand their asthma and successfully control it. The American Lung Association of Ohio-South Shore Branch hosted three sessions this summer at the Groman Nature Center in Mansfield, Ohio.

Health educator Felix Dubanciewicz, RRT, began the education portion by asking the question “What is asthma?” Following a description of the lungs and how asthma affects them, the children were encouraged to get artistic. They drew pictures of their lungs and then covered them in grass, leaves and wildflowers to represent the various parts of the lung.

“I like this project because I can be creative,” said 8-year-old Kilee.

Ways to communicate with people who don’t have asthma was covered in the lesson as well. Overall, the campers said their friends and family members were very understanding of their disease.

“You should have them try to breathe through a straw so they can see what it’s like,” suggested one camper, Stephen.

ASTHMA MANAGEMENT

In the second lesson, health educator Deb Novotny, MSN, RN, CPNP, taught campers about asthma management. They discussed warning signs of oncoming asthma episodes such as coughing, wheezing and a scratchy throat. They also learned how to relax using belly breathing and how to clear their lungs using a deep cough.

From a sea of eager raised hands, 7-year-old Chris was chosen to demonstrate the correct way to use an inhaler. Campers were also shown how to properly use the complimentary spacers donated by GlaxoSmithKline.

Peak flow meters were also donated, compliments of Monaghan and UCB Pharma Inc. A competitive spirit was in the air as campers tried to get increasingly higher readings. Campers regarded the peak flow meters like giant hammers used in “test your strength” attractions at carnivals. The red, yellow and green on the peak flow meters were likened to traffic light directions.

Between lessons, children enjoyed the nature center’s walks and ponds. Campers also attended a session focusing on problems with medication. Most campers indicated they had no problems with their medications, however, a few said they didn’t like the taste. Several youngsters offered advice on what to mix with medications to make them tastier. It was one of the many times throughout the day the campers made suggestions to help each other.

Volunteer Lynn Schmidt, RN, offered some advice for those having trouble swallowing pills. “Try starting off with those little round cinnamon candies,” she advised. “If you practice with those, the pills will go down easier.” The main focus of the lesson was to show it should take about 5 to 10 minutes for medications to take effect. Educators also discussed what the youngsters should do if symptoms do not improve.

ASTHMA TRIGGERS

Also on tap was a lesson about asthma triggers, cleverly disguised as a game of charades. Then children saw a nature show presented by the center’s staff. To complete the day, there was a review session and a graduation ceremony during which children showed their parents how much they had learned at the camp.

This summer day camp was an outreach program developed as a result of the ALA of Ohio’s 22 years of experience in running a resident camp for asthmatic children. For more information about asthma camp programs and asthma education opportunities, contact your local office of the American Lung Association at (800)-LUNG-USA.

Jade Hoffman is a college journalism intern.

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