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Utah children breathe easier with 'Open Airways for Schools' program

With the 2006 school year in session, the American Lung Association of Utah is asking parents, teachers and guardians to protect the health of the more than 61,000 children in Utah that have asthma.

The fall and winter school months are when asthma attack rates and related hospitalizations are at their highest for children. This is primarily due to increased incidences of colds and flu, which are easily passed from child to child during the school day.

Asthma is the most common cause of school absenteeism due to chronic disease and accounted for an estimated 14 million lost school days last year. In the average class with 30 students, two of the students are likely to have asthma.

Even though asthma cannot be cured, it can almost always be controlled. For this reason, the American Lung Association of Utah has chosen control of childhood asthma as one of its top priorities.

The Lung Association offers local programs to help children manage their asthma.

"Open Airways for Schools" empowers children with asthma (ages 8-11) to better manage their illness so that they spend more time in the classroom and less time in the emergency room.

Through a series of six lessons that include stories, games, and group discussions, volunteer instructors teach children about the warning signs of asthma, and what they can do to prevent an asthma attack.

Children who do not know how to take care of their asthma are at serious risk.

Children who participate in "Open Airways" have fewer and less severe asthma attacks, improve their academic performance, have more confidence in their ability to manage their asthma, and exert greater influence on their parents' asthma management decisions.

The American Lung Association is currently seeking volunteers to teach "Open Airways" in Utah Schools. PTA volunteers, parents of children with asthma, or those with a medical background make excellent instructors. For more information, or to register for the training session, contact Vicki Wheeler at the American Lung Association of Utah, 801-484-4456 or 1-800-LUNG-USA.

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