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Family Focus: High number of asthma cases as kids go back to school

How you can prevent a scary trip to the ER

TOLEDO, Ohio — Your kids are back to school and around other kids and germs once again. And it's not just a cold they could catch.

There are important steps parents can take to stop a scary trip to the emergency room because of asthma.

"When I play basketball, it can affect me. Six years old and it was the worst and then it got worse," said Terrence Dabner, a 9th grader at Horizon Science Academy.

But playing sports hasn't always come easy. He'll never forget when he was six and had to go to the E.R.  

"I wake up in the middle of my sleep, can't breathe, and my mom rushed me to the hospital," Terrence admits he was scared.

Doctors first thought it was a cold but Terrence kept coughing and coughing and couldn't catch his breath.

It was asthma.

"And we see tons of asthma. We probably have 8 or 10 kids that we follow with asthma here in our office," said Dr. Bruce Barnett, a Pediatric Pulmonary Medicine doctor at ProMedica Toledo Children's Hospital. "And we see tons of asthma. We probably have eight or 10 kids that we follow with asthma here in our office."

Dr. Barnett said the number one chronic illness of the pulmonary tract is asthma.

And ProMedica said 294,000 kids in Ohio have been told they have it at some point in their lives.

Making matters worse, visits to the ER because of asthma have become very common in kids under five.

"Well, it's very scary because it's not something you can do, like a temperature you can say, hey take something. Or they've had three ear infections and they think it's an ear infection. And they're not working hard to breathe," said Dr. Barnett.

He said asthma can be caused by viruses spread from one kid to another or from seasonal allergies.

Sometimes it's only detected after physical activity. 

"We know that kids are back into sports, so maybe they didn't do organized sports and they didn't run two miles or three miles at a soccer game or they weren't playing football in the 75 or 80 degree weather," Dr. Barnett added.

Credit: Dorian Powell
Terrence Dabner playing basketball and living with asthma

Terrence's mom Dorian, didn't want him to play sports because oh his asthma, but that all changed when he was diagnosed and started getting treatment.

He can play basketball again but has to get a shot once a month.

And before he gets on the court, he takes two puffs of an inhaler to prevent a flare-up.

Credit: Dorian Powell
Terrence Dabner uses his inhaler before or during sports activities

Terrence goes to ProMedica Toledo Children's Hospital for checkups.

It's the first and only hospital in Ohio to have an asthma program that's certified in both in-patient and outpatient asthma care. There are only 12 in the whole country.

"The goal is, if we get them under control and we get them on the right medications is that we try to never have them have to go to the ER. They have a controller medication, a preventor, then they have a "rescue", a get me out of trouble medication," Dr. Barnett said.

Dr. Barnett said kids can best protect themselves from virus-causing asthma, by washing their hands regularly.

Terrence has his own very good advice.

"Pray and never give up," he said. 

He added that kids need to listen to their doctors and always take their medicine.

ProMedica has asthma care for kids at all of its hospitals.

If it's a particularly serious case, they'll be referred to Toledo Children's.

You can read more information on asthma from the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America right here and from the American Lung Association here