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May 3, 2018

Healthy Living: Challenging the Chronic Lung Condition, Asthma

World Asthma Day is celebrated on May first. But what is really known about it? It’s a lung condition that can be caused by any number of conditions. Healthy Living tonight discusses the condition, which is not curable, and how it can be kept under control.


Marleni Cuellar, Reporting

Asthma is chronic condition that is very common across the globe. Scientists don’t know exactly what causes a person to have asthma; but they do know it is not contagious and it does run in families.


Cecilio Eck

Dr. Cecilio Eck, Head of Pediatrics, K.H.M.H.

“In medical terms, chronic reversible airway obstruction; in layman’s terms, I tell people it is hyperactive airway disease, an allergy that affects your lungs and it happens throughout life. It usually presents as a partial genetic disorder earlier on it life and then it progresses as you grow. If any of your family members are atopic or have one of these five illnesses: eczema, popular aortic area, migraine headaches, allergic rhinitis or what we call sinus or asthma in your family, the risk of your kids getting asthma increased.”


Asthma cannot be cured. There are some who do outgrow the condition but not all. The focus of treatment for asthma is management.


Dr. Cecilio Eck

“The management of asthma is not to give medicines or to end up at my hospital, but to identify the triggers, avoid the triggers and when you notice the signs of the attack to start treatment at home. And only if that does not work to come in. The simplified way of looking at it is like a stoplight. A green person with asthma is fine and running around and may not need any medication. Yellow is when the cough starts, maybe a little distress breathing, shortness of breath. At that point in time, you can start with medications—the nebs, the inhalers that you have at home; sometimes, simple syrups may help. If that doesn’t work, you go to the red phase where the kid is very distress, very short of breath; that’s the indication to reach a hospital.”


That’s when an asthmatic child or adult will most likely end up here: in the asthma bay at Accident and Emergency Unit of the K.H.M.H.


Casilda Bowman

Nurse Casilda Bowman, Unit Manager, Accident & Emergency, K.H.M.H.

“It can become critical very quickly so we try our best to administer medication right away and as quick and as fast as we can. So we want to try to have an area that serves purposefully only for them. Once you’re an asthmatic, you’re a priority and of course if you are a child who is exhibiting any kind of lung obstruction, then you automatically come in. It depends on the severity that you come in, we then determine if you go directly on a bed or you come in the asthmatic bay because we have some patients who wait until they can’t breathe anymore and then they access the emergency department. Usually at that point in time, we usually have to take them to the bed and administer direct care on a bed setting rather than in the asthmatic bay.”


Marleni Cuellar

“What happens if you have people come in and the asthma bay is full?”


Nurse Casilda Bowman

“Well this is Karl Heusner; we always improvise. There are ways in which we can accommodate people. So we do have a plan in place in which when all our oxygen ports are filled, we then utilize oxygen tanks or more than likely we have the patients share the oxygen wall ports. But because of this new asthma bay, it is actually built to accommodate at least thirteen patients at one time. On a daily basis, we will get about five to seven maybe on a rainy day, about fifteen people. We do get a lot sometimes but betweens even and ten per day we would get on an eight hour shift and usually we see more people coming in between two o’clock in the morning to six o’clock in the morning.”


Dr. Cecilio Eck

“There are seasons so the season for asthma usually is around the winter months, when the cold weather starts to come in. But there is a little peak around this same time when the savannah starts to burn, it’s smoky and dusty; it is close to springtime where the pollen comes in. So those are the two peaks. Around that time, we advise the parents, we give preventative drugs, but in the emergency room, they prepare for it.”


The most important part of management is recognize what triggers the asthma and having on hand the proper treatment tools, whether it be medications, inhalers or a nebulizer and families need to educate themselves on the condition. As according to Doctor Eck, asthma patients still struggle with their own form of stigma.


Dr. Cecilio Eck

“I usually wait a long time before I diagnose a child with asthma and I’ll take this forum to discuss the major thing for me is stigma. If I put asthma on the diagnosis sheet or I tell a parent the child is asthmatic, it’s one of the worst diagnosis. Parents usually start to cry and I explain to them, erase the stigma from the blackboard. This kid, you will have to explain to the teachers, you’ll have to tell them independent of that diagnosis, the child could still clean the classroom, could still run the race during the dusty track and field events. I explain to them as well if I put asthma on, the insurance people will raise their premiums. And so most pediatricians and docs wait a long time for it. so this time, I would explain to the teachers, to the caretakers, to the relatives that it is a diagnosis, it is treatable, it is manageable and in our system, we have the wherewithal to deal with even the most severe complicated cases.”

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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