THUNDER BAY – Healthbeat – For asthmatics, wheezing is a vicious circle. “If you wheeze, you cause inflammation. The more inflammation you have, the more you’re likely to wheeze,” said Michele Miller, Manager of Cardio/Respiratory & Diagnostic Support Services, which includes the Asthma Clinic at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre. “The wheezing is easy – it happens in an instant. But the inflammation can last for weeks.”
Obviously, the best way is to prevent the wheeze from happening in the first place. That requires proper asthma management through the use of inhaled medications and lifestyle changes. But the truth is that six out of 10 people don’t have control of their asthma.
That’s where the Asthma Clinic can help.
Patients referred to the clinic talk to a Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT), who is also a Certified Respiratory Educator, and a respirologist about how manage their asthma including how to use their inhalers, identifying triggers, and identifying what seasons their asthma tends to flair up.
“Asthma is not the same chronic disease in everybody,” Miller said. “What medication they’re on and what helps their asthma is completely different than their neighbour or their son. You have to manage it by the person, not the diagnosis. That’s why we follow them and make sure they’re ‘wheeze-free’.”
Many patients are referred to the clinic by their Family Physician when treatment plans are not working.
“Family doctors refer their patients to the clinic so they’ll be seen by a respirologist and an asthma educator to help them get their asthma under control,” Miller said.
Miller said that they would also like to see all patients admitted through the Emergency Department with an asthma attack.
“We like to catch them early and give them all the tools they would need to stay out of Emerge,” Miller said.
Asthma is becoming more and more prevalent. According to the Asthma Society of Canada, three million Canadians suffer from the chronic condition, compared to just 2.4% of adults in 1979. In fact Canada has one of the highest rates of asthma in the world.
The Asthma Clinic at the Health Sciences Centre sees approximately 400-500 clients per year.
“We have some patients who may come every three years – if they don’t need to come, they don’t,” Miller said. “But the ones who need our attention, we make sure that they come back for frequent follow-up.”
She added that in these cases, they can try different treatments and management strategies until they find ones that work.
“We can make such a big difference for patients with asthma who come to the clinic,” Miller said.
Photograph: Canada has one of the highest rates of asthma in the world, and children are particularly hard hit – according to the Asthma Society of Canada, at least 12% of children suffer from asthma. Proper management through the use of inhalers and avoiding triggers can help keep asthma under control.