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Tips on breathing easier
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Babysitters caring for children with asthma need extra preparation for a safe, uneventful evening while parents are away, according to the American Lung Association - Southeast Region.
An estimated 10 percent of Georgia’s children have asthma, resulting in more than 47,000 ER visits annually. The Lung Association recommends that parents insure that the sitter understand enough about asthma to recognize the warnings signs of an attack and know what to do in an emergency.
“Parents may be reluctant to leave a child who has asthma with a sitter, whether that person is the teen next door, a relative or someone from a professional baby-sitting service,” said Pam Collins, Vice President of Programs for the ALA - Southeast Region. “But, with a little advanced planning, the sitter will know how to deal with the child’s asthma and parents can be less anxious about leaving the child in someone else’s care,” said Collins.
A baby-sitter needs to understand that asthma is a chronic condition in which the airways in the lungs become inflamed and “twitchy.” This twitchiness can temporarily constrict or even block the airways, leading to wheezing, coughing and difficult breathing. The airways are more likely to constrict when the child is exposed to allergy triggers, such as dust, pollen, mold, secondhand tobacco smoke, excitement, stress or even exercise. Asthma can be well managed with medications that help reduce the underlying inflammation in the airways and relieve or prevent airway constriction.
The American Lung Association recommends the following when choosing a baby-sitter for a child with asthma:
• Find a sitter who is willing and able to observe and medicate your child. Depending on the age of the child, the sitter needs to be comfortable giving medications to very young children or monitoring older children as they take their medication.
• Find a sitter who does not smoke. There is ample proof linking exposure to secondhand smoke with asthma. It is not enough to allow the sitter to go outside to smoke. You do not want the child left alone in the house while the sitter goes out for a cigarette. You also do not want the sitter taking the child outside and exposing him/her to secondhand smoke.
Once you have found a baby-sitter who meets those two key criteria, the Lung Association suggests the following:
• Tell the sitter what specific things can trigger an asthma attack in your child. The sitter should try to see that the child avoids these triggers.
• Show the sitter how and when to use your child’s asthma medications. Cover both long-term preventive medications and the quick relief medications needed if the child is wheezing or having trouble breathing.
• Leave a written schedule for when a regular, preventive medication is to be given. Include dosage information and any special instructions.
• Leave a written plan of action to follow in case of an asthma attack. Teach the sitter the warning signs of an impending attack (coughing, wheezing, difficult breathing, sucking in his or her chest). The emergency plan should include a phone number where you can be reached, plus numbers for your doctor and the local hospital.
• Explain that it is very important to remain calm if an asthma attack occurs. Any sign of nervousness by the sitter can make the child more anxious and cause the attack to worsen.
• Talk through various scenarios that might occur and review how to handle each situation.  Do not be an alarmist, but do make certain the baby sitter knows what might happen and what steps to take.
For more information on asthma and lung health, contact the American Lung Association at 1-800-LUNG-USA or visit

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The American Lung Association recommends that parents provide written Asthma Action Plans to schools listing asthma triggers, medications, instructions for physical activity, and an emergency plan. Schools play pivotal roles in students’ asthma management by providing an asthma-friendly school environment, communicating with parents about students’ specific health experiences while at school, and facilitating referrals to healthcare providers and other community resources when necessary. Asthma Action Plan forms, tips for parents of children with asthma, as well as resources for schools and healthcare providers, are available at or by calling 1-800-LUNG-USA.
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