Children have fun and learn at asthma camp

By Sara Brown

Cape Gazette of Lewes, Delaware

When Cameron Taylor was diagnosed with asthma at age 2, his mother Tina Bradbury didn't know what to expect. "His asthma would be triggered by pollen, smoke, dust, or even when he exercised," she said. "It could be really scary."

Cameron, 9, describes his attacks as coughing that he worries he can't stop.

This will be Cameron's fourth year attending Asthma Camp in Lewes. The American Lung Association in Delaware's Asthma Camp is hosted by Children's Beach House with support from Beebe Healthcare's Respiratory Services and Delaware Technical Community College's respiratory therapist program.

The camp aims to teach children on their level about asthma, what causes it, and how they can take action to prevent it or control it.

"The counselors at asthma camp really know how to talk to the kids," said Christopher Steele, director of Respiratory Services at Beebe. "They use fun games and exercises to explain the respiratory system."

During the check-in process, a physician checks each child and reviews his or her chart to make sure the child is healthy enough to attend the three-day two-night camp. Respiratory therapists from both Beebe and the Delaware Tech program are on hand each day to monitor the children for any health issues.

"As the mother of a child with asthma, it puts me at ease knowing that all these healthcare professionals are watching out for the kids," said Shannon Pencek, whose son Connor, 10, has attended the camp for two years. "Connor has had breathing issues since birth and likely could not attend other traditional sleep-away camps. It's really great to have this camp here, and I am confident that he will be safe and have fun without worrying about his asthma."

Dawn Adili-Khams, a respiratory therapist at Beebe, worked at the camp while she was in school. Then, when her son was diagnosed with exercise-induced asthma, she signed him up.

"I like that they teach us what triggers our asthma and about the respiratory system," said Daniel Adili-Khams, 12, who attended the camp for two years. "I love playing soccer, so I learned the importance of taking my inhaler before starting to play."

Steele said, "The goal is that the more you know about asthma, the more you can control it and understand what causes it."

Asthma is a chronic or long-term lung disease that causes inflammation and narrowing of the airways. Common characteristics of asthma include wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath, and coughing at night or early in the morning. Asthma typically starts during childhood and when poorly controlled can prevent children from participating in common activities such as miming, horseback riding, and various sports. The key to improving the quality of life for a child with asthma is education.

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America designates May as National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month. It's a peak season for asthma and allergy sufferers, and a perfect time to educate about these diseases.

Ten people a day die from asthma. Asthma affects 24 million Americans, and there is no cure. About 6.3 million children under the age of 18 suffer from asthma. In addition, more than 50 million Americans have all types of allergies — pollen, skin, latex and more.

This year's Sussex County Asthma Camp will be held Saturday, July 9 through Sunday, July 10, at the Children's Beach House on Lewes Beach. The goal of Asthma Camp is to teach children about asthma and how to manage their disease while having fun at the same time.

During camp, asthma education is provided through arts and crafts and also through games such as asthma bingo. Topics for asthma education include proper spacer technique; the difference between maintenance medications and rescue inhalers; how to recognize and avoid asthma triggers; and the benefits of properly controlled asthma. The campers interact and make friends with other children dealing with the same chronic disease. Over the years, campers have looked forward to seeing their friends from previous years and have often communicated with one another throughout the year.

Any child between the ages of 7 and 11 with moderate asthma is eligible to attend camp. The cost for the camp is $50, and there are scholarships available through the American Lung Association for those in need of financial assistance. Camp enrollment is done on a first-come, first-served basis and is limited to 25 campers. For more information, contact or 302-645-3300, Ext. 5764.

Sara Brown, BS, RRT, is a lead respiratory therapist at Beebe Healthcare. She has more than 12 years of experience as a registered respiratory therapist, and has worked at Beebe for more than two years.

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