Controlling asthma attacks during school hours can be difficult for kids because they don't want to be viewed by their peers as sick or weak.
"Especially as kids get older, beginning in middle school, and particularly in high school, embarrassment becomes a real issue," said Cathy Boutin, coordinator for Juneau's Asthma and Allergy Support Group. "But if they have better control, they don't need to use their inhalers as often."
Asthma occurs when the lining of the airways swells, cells produce too much mucus and fluids that can clog the airways, and muscles surrounding the airways tighten. Hand-held medication inhalers allow asthma patients to treat themselves, usually with a medication called corticosteroids.
A free meeting Thursday sponsored by the Asthma and Allergy Support Group will discuss a new medication released on the market in September. The medication, called Advair, combines traditional corticosteroids with long-acting brochodialators. Advair can be used by kids age 12 and up, Boutin said.
"Advair can be ordered now by local doctors. The combination of medications in it often produces a much better effect" for asthma suffers, allowing them to use their inhalers at longer intervals, she said. Children can run and exercise without coughing and wheezing when their asthma is well controlled.
Dr. Charles Jackson, a Seattle allergist, will speak at Thursday's meeting. Jackson said he just got the first samples of Advair in his office last week.
"It is not for everybody, but for people who still have some wheezing on corticosteroids alone," he said.
Boutin, a librarian at Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School, said many people suffer from some form of asthma and many of those are young.
"This is an important meeting because asthma impacts so many children in Juneau," she said.
Health worker Judy Neary's Alaska Health Fairs survey of nurses counted 260 Juneau school children with asthma, which coincides closely with Jackson's estimate that 5 or 6 percent of the school population would suffer from this chronic disorder.
Parents, children who use inhalers, school nurses and teachers are invited to the meeting, which begins at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in the second floor board room of Bartlett Regional Hospital's administration building.
Child care will be available starting at 6 p.m. at the REACH building just behind the administration building and reservations are encouraged.
Call Boutin at 789-7936, evenings, or Neary at 789-0317 for details.
Ann Chandonnet can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A Web link to the Allergy and Asthma Network/Mothers of Asthmatics is at Hot Links at juneauempire.com.