Keep your inhalers close

Breathing. You often think nothing of it – until you can’t do it properly.

Breathing. You often think nothing of it – until you can’t do it properly. And if that happens you can’t think of anything else except getting enough air.

Try breathing through a straw in your mouth with your nose plugged. That will give you a sense of what an asthmatic feels during an attack.

My six-year-old son tells me his asthma feels like a big man sitting on his chest, “and he’s not a nice man either.”

With the history of asthma in our family, I am used to carrying inhalers at all times and am also prone to strategically placing them in cars, gym bags and lunch kits.

But when it comes to school, my son’s inhaler is not allowed to be kept with him. Instead, school policy dictates that it be kept in a locked cupboard in the office. He is certainly welcome to show up at the office any time to get his puffs of the medicine that helps open his airways – but he has to get there first.

I’m sure in an emergency, school staff would run to get it for him, but I’ve also witnessed how quickly an asthma attack can turn into a full-blown emergency.

How long do you think you could last without getting any air? One minute? Two?

An inhaler in the school office wasn’t good enough for Ryan Gibbons, a 12-year-old Ontario boy who died in October 2012 after suffering an asthma attack during recess. His school in Straffordville, near London, would not allow him to keep his inhaler with him, despite repeated efforts by his mother and a doctor’s note. The boy would sometimes sneak an inhaler along with him but, if caught, it would be taken away and his mother would get a phone call reminding her of the policy.

Now a private member’s bill, known as Ryan’s Law, passed Thursday in the Ontario Legislative Assembly, will allow children access to carry inhalers with parental and doctor approval.

“It seems like a matter of common sense that kids would have immediate access to their life-saving medications,” said MP Jeff Yurek, who introduced the bill.

Indeed, being without an inhaler during an asthma attack can exacerbate the situation. The stress of trying to get to medication  can ramp up the asthmatic symptoms, causing a more severe reaction. An inhaler offers quick relief in most cases, and knowing it’s there is like a security blanket for an asthmatic.

I would like to see Ryan’s Law brought to our school district; indeed, B.C. should be following Ontario’s example and legislating this as policy for all school districts.

My son doesn’t like when big man Asthma comes to sit on his chest. He knows his inhaler is the quickest way to banish that feeling. I know he doesn’t abuse his inhaler because when he is breathing normally; he doesn’t even think about it. He just gets on with running, playing and associated six-year-old mischief.

But having his inhaler close at hand would give him that sense of security. And after hearing about Ryan, it would do wonders for my peace of mind.


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