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About 1 in 10 children has asthma, a chronic lung disease that irritates and narrows the airways. It can lead to missed days of school, limits on activities and even, in some cases, life-threatening episodes.
Fortunately, good asthma management can help most kids with asthma lead a virtually normal life, including being physically active.
“The key to keeping these children out of the hospital is education,” says Michelle Vermeland, RRT, a respiratory therapist at Edward Hospital. “And if you can make the lesson fun, it’s more likely to stick.”
This line of thinking is what led to Camp Breathe Easy, a program that Edward-Elmhurst Health runs each summer for 7- to 11-year-old kids with asthma. The 2017 Camp was held July 31 – Aug. 4 on the Edward campus in Naperville. The camp is funded by the Edward Foundation.
One of the camp’s popular and physically active learning activities was the obstacle course. In order to advance from challenge to challenge, the kids had to correctly answer one of the questions based on the day’s lessons.
Another activity tied in to kids’ fascination with all things gross. Campers learned about mucous while making a concoction out of corn starch and water – coloring options were white, yellow or green. Better looking products came out of other craft activities, such as tie-dyed tee shirts.
The camp sessions were led by Vermeland and respiratory therapists Kayle Brunson and Kimberly Ytsen, with a hand from two teenage guests. One of them had a special connection to the kids – she’d been a Camp Breathe Easy participant several years ago.
A camp highlight was a pep talk on exercise and nutrition by Jarrett Payton, former professional football player, sports broadcaster, motivational speaker and son of the late NFL great, Walter Payton.
Fitness specialist Victor Valentin-He from Edward-Elmhurst Health & Fitness also shared tips.
At the end of the week, a respiratory therapist gave a pulmonary function test to each camper. And the parents received a checklist summarizing their child’s skills and areas that might benefit from extra attention.
Says Vermeland, “This is the first year I’ve been involved in this program, but I am really passionate about asthma education. Next year, I hope to reach out not only to kids with asthma, but also to those at higher risk of the disease.”
Find a specialist in pediatric pulmonology or call the Edward-Elmhurst Physician Referral line at 630-527-6363.
Learn more about pediatric asthma.
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