Doctors and patients alike should be aware of the University of Kentucky’s Kohl’s Asthma Program as a wonderful community resource. It is important to know when it is a good idea to come in for an evaluation and who would be a good candidate to seek help. “Most of the time someone comes because the primary care doctor is not identifying the patient as asthmatic, and they are referred for a diagnosis like a cough or recurrent pneumonia since traditionally people do not associate those symptoms with asthma,” said Dr. Jamshed Kanga, chief of the Division of Pediatric Pulmonology at UK. Other times a child may come with a chronic cough that is caused by asthma. “We see the child with asthma and may start them on appropriate treatment and they come back doing so much better.”
Doctors have found new purposes for the Asthma Program over the years. “Our whole goal in our clinic setting is asthma education because unfortunately primary care doctors do not have the resources or ability to spend as much time with the patient as we do,” says Kanga. Specialists have more relevant training to put forward. “We first do an evaluation not make sure asthma is the diagnosis and there is nothing else going on, and then we have a whole team of people including a nurse, social worker, dietician and respiratory therapist that work with the child and family and teach them how to manage asthma.”
Dr. Kanga notes that asthma should not pose as much of a challenge if you know how to respond. “The key to any chronic disease, especially a disease like asthma, is to be able to educate families so they can take care of the child and do not really have to see the doctor that often.” Frequency of doctor visits depends upon how well-controlled the patient is. “You see them for the first time and do an evaluation and if they are mild, I let them go six months and if they are not under good control I will see them back in a week if I have to.”
He also stresses the importance of a team environment. “Avoid your triggers as much as possible but there are some triggers like ragweed that are difficult to eliminate completely from your environment.” Instead, he advises taking control of what you can. “There are some things like cigarette smoke, strong odors and perfumes that people use that can be avoided easily.”
If you have a patient under eighteen years of age that is struggling, the pediatric pulmonologist or one of the other staff at the Asthma Program would be glad to see them. In some cases, they do not need to see a specialist again. “Many are managed very adequately by their primary care physicians but we see the ones where they are having trouble,” says Kanga. Even severe cases can have positive outcomes. The program has “very good success at keeping people out of the emergency room and hospital so the prognosis is good for childhood asthma and most will get better with time and appropriate treatment and should not have restrictions on their activity.”
The Kohl’s Asthma Program is an essential part of the medical community. “One out of ten kids in Kentucky has asthma and we work along with the primary care doctors to give them guidelines and help with the things they are unable to do like pulmonary function testing and see how good or bad the child’s lung function is as well as help with education and appropriate treatment,” says Kanga. Thanks to the UK Kohl’s Asthma Program, many kids are leading productive, normal lives in spite of an asthma diagnosis.
by Jamie Lober, Staff Writer, KY Doc Magazine