Authored by: Laura Kanov, Senior Vice President, Product Strategy

I often tell people I was a respiratory therapist (RT) in a former life. The truth is that you never really shake it. My ears perk up when I overhear words like “oxyhemoglobin”, “albuterol” or “CPAP”.  I still note when someone labors in their breathing or coughs like a COPD’er and I am still in awe over the incredible physiological design of the cardiorespiratory systems.

I’ll never forget my first job as an RT in a community hospital. I was being precepted by a more senior therapist when we were paged to the ED for a code coming in from EMS. When we arrived, we took over hand bagging a teenage girl who was in cardiac arrest post status asthmaticus. That is, she was in such a severe asthmatic state that her lungs were incredibly stiff, her bronchospasm could not be reversed and her heart had given out. My preceptor recognized the girl, as she came in frequently, stroked her manicured hand and said sadly, “She reacts to nail polish fumes.” They called the code after perhaps 20 or 25 minutes of unsuccessful resuscitation. I disconnected the resuscitation bag from her ET tube and felt this overwhelming sense of grief and loss as this sweet young girl lay still on the gurney.

Asthma is a very common condition. As reported by the CDC in 2015, 24.6 million people have asthma including 6.2 million children, about half of whom report having had at least one asthma attack in that year. Do not confuse the term common with trivial. 3,615 deaths were attributed to asthma in 2015, including 219 children. Deaths are rare, but they are largely preventable!

May is Asthma Awareness Month. If you or your child has asthma, I am encouraging you to do these four things to take control.

  1. Know your triggers. Keep a diary and an inventory of how you feel, what your peak flows are and types of things you’ve come in contact with to help you isolate your triggers as necessary.
  2. Avoid them. This may mean not visiting friends’ homes who have pets or dust. Your friends will understand!
  3. Have an action plan. Consult your physician to create an action plan. Use your peak flow meter as a barometer for responses – taking additional inhaler doses, visiting the ED, etc.
  4. Don’t delay. The longer you are into an attack, the harder it is to reverse.

I am proud to work at HBI Solutions, where we develop and deploy algorithms that predict future costs, conditions and events, including asthma exacerbation so that our clients can help improve the lives of their patients and members while reducing medical spend.

Visit the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) website here to learn more about Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month.