Peer support eases mind for asthmatic

Dannielle Hawkins can breathe easy now that her fellow Taieri Beach School pupils have learnt the symptoms of asthma and how to help her in the event of an attack.

Dannielle was born with asthma and she said the most frightening thing about having the lung condition was living in a remote area, far from help from emergency services.

But yesterday, that changed.

As part of World Asthma Day, she and her fellow pupils learnt about what could trigger asthma attacks, what they felt like for asthmatics and how they could manage the emergency.

Dannielle said pollen, smoke and exercise could trigger an asthma attack for her, and because she was surrounded by the triggers, she took medications several times a day and always carried inhalers with her.

As part of World Asthma Day, Taieri Beach School pupils (from left) Indica Hawkins (9), Delrio Hulme (7) and Reina Thompson (5) breathe through straws to experience what it feels like to have asthma, like fellow pupil Dannielle Hawkins (10, front). Photo:
As part of World Asthma Day, Taieri Beach School pupils (from left) Indica Hawkins (9), Delrio Hulme (7) and Reina Thompson (5) breathe through straws to experience what it feels like to have asthma, like fellow pupil Dannielle Hawkins (10, front). Photo: Peter McIntosh
Principal Gloria Penrice said her classmates were most interested in experiencing what it felt like to have asthma.

So each was given a brown paper bag and asked to blow into it. Then they were given a straw and asked to blow into the bag again — simulating someone with asthma.

‘‘It gave them a visual of what it is like for someone who has asthma — their lungs don’t inflate as much.’’

She said the class also role-played a scenario where Dannielle came into the classroom having an asthma attack, and the children were taught how to respond to the emergency.

‘‘If something goes wrong for Dannielle, we’re a long way from help out here, so it’s really important to do this.’’

Dannielle said it felt good to know there was someone there to help her.

‘‘I don’t worry so much about those things that might trigger an asthma attack now.’’

The school was one of more than 130 around New Zealand that participated in similar activities as part of World Asthma Day yesterday.

Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ chief executive Letitia O’Dwyer said statistics showed at least four children in a class of 30 had asthma.

‘‘So we know that asthma has a large prevalence within our schools and communities.

‘‘This year we have provided free activity packs for schools, educating students on how to respond to an asthma emergency should their classmate have one, and asking schools to check that their asthma emergency kit is up to date.

‘‘The information provided within these resources is crucial, and could very well save lives,’’ she said.

john.lewis@odt.co.nz

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