A Personal Story From the Asthma Capitals™ 2018 Report
On May 1, 2018, – World Asthma Day – the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) released the Asthma Capitals™ 2018 report. This report ranks the top 100 Asthma Capitals in the U.S. It highlights the widespread impact asthma has on our nation. For 25 million Americans, asthma is a challenging disease that can have physical, emotional, social and financial impacts. During National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month, we will share personal stories from our top 20 capitals to show what life is like managing asthma.
The Morley Family
#4 Asthma Capital: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
When Joey was 4 years old, his parents took him to see an allergist. He was having trouble breathing and having challenges with his digestive system. They learned that Joey has asthma triggered by environmental and food allergies.
“When we first went to see his allergist, we didn’t understand a whole lot about allergies and how that affects different systems,” explains Joey’s mom, Carlene. “The doctor asked us if Joey had asthma. He went through the symptoms and asked us questions about Joey’s breathing. That is when we discovered that Joey has asthma.”
“Joey’s diagnosis brought about a lot of questions about what his quality of life would be,” remembers Carlene. “He is really athletic and loves going outside. Right away I was worried about how it was going to impact his life. Knowing that there is a way that we can prevent his attacks and learning the symptoms and signs to stay on top of it all the time was a positive note.”
Joey and his parents live in Quakertown, Pennsylvania, which is a suburban area of Philadelphia. The town has both industrial plants and farmlands. It also has a major highway.
“Route 309 is a major highway that comes right through our town,” explains Carlene. “There is a lot of traffic and trucks that drive on that bring pollution.”
Putting Together a Plan to Manage Joey’s Asthma
To help prevent and control his asthma symptoms, Joey uses a long-term control medicine twice a day. And, when he has trouble breathing he uses a quick-relief medicine or nebulizer.
“Trying to have a 4- or 5-year-old cooperate to take their medicine has been a little bit of a struggle,” explains Carlene. “We are still hopeful that he will grow out of it, but he has become good at knowing his own body and asking us for help.”
Carlene watches out for Joey and helps him enjoy playing outdoors. She has him take breaks. And when he comes inside, she has him change his clothes and take a bath.
Managing Joey's asthma requires help from more than his parents and his doctors. He is now in elementary school.
“When he started school, explaining everything to the school nurse was very nerve-racking. It was hard to let go of being in control of him all day every day.”
Joey has been to the emergency room three times due to his asthma. “Getting to the emergency room is very overwhelming,” recalls Carlene. “But, knowing that the pressure is off me and transferred to the medical team helps.”
The Hidden Costs of Managing Asthma
The Morley’s budget for Joey’s asthma medicine with the help of a heath savings account (HSA). This allows them to deposit money directly from his dad's paychecks into the account. They can then use the money for approved medical expenses.
“Having the money set aside helps,” shares Carlene.
But managing asthma involves more expenses than medicine.
The Morleys travel 45 minutes to visit Joey’s allergist and pulmonologist. There are only a few in the Philadelphia area that treat children.
“It gets expensive paying for the gas and tolls to visit frequently when trying new treatments,” explains Carlene.
“Getting the house prepared was probably the hardest thing,” remembers Carlene. The previous owner of the Morley’s house had cats and they left a lasting impression on the carpet. Joey is allergic to dust and cats, so the Morley’s took out all the carpets in their house. They replaced them with hardwood flooring.
It didn’t stop there. They got a special air filtration and heating system to minimize the dust in their house. “Because of the poor air quality and pollution in this area, we have to keep air purifiers running constantly. So, there is the added expense of purchasing the purifiers, and the electricity to keep them running. And, the air conditioner is constantly running to filter the air.”
Joey even has a special air purifier in his bedroom. Plus, they don’t open the windows to their house to reduce what comes inside. Managing asthma takes a team effort and the whole family helps Joey with that.
Advice for Parents With Children Who Have Asthma
Managing Joey's asthma has taught Carlene a lot. She recommends that anyone with asthma “find a specialist that knows a lot about your area and knows how to manage a person living in that area. We are very blessed to have found our pulmonologist and allergist. They have been living in the Philadelphia area for more than 40 years, so they definitely know a lot about this area and treating children in this area.”
There is still more to do to protect everyone with asthma.
“Some of the schools in our area don’t have air conditioning and that definitely affects the air quality,” explains Carlene. “I think, too, that educating people on the symptoms of asthma would help. A lot of people hear asthma and think that Joey is a frail kid that can’t do a whole lot. They think that he can’t compete with the other kids and that’s just not true, it’s not accurate.” Education is critical to managing asthma.
The Asthma Capitals™ 2018 report is an independent research and education project of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America made possible with support from Sanofi Genzyme and Regeneron.