Monday, November 1, 2010

The End of Respiratory Care Week

With last week being National Respiratory Care Week I'm going to take the time to mention one (of the many) of my work related pet peeves.
Asthma is a reactive airway disease. You are born with it. Like an allergy. Your airway comes into contact with an allergen and creates more mucus and constricts. This causes the wheezing sound associated with it. Wheezing, however, is not limited to asthma. There are other respiratory conditions that can make a person wheeze, like chronic bronchitis. Which leads me to my pet peeve.

You can not outgrow asthma.

When people say to me "I used to have asthma when I was a kid, but I outgrew it" it makes me crazy. Most of the time I politely correct them because I'm a nerd like that. I get irritated when people then look at me like I have no idea what I'm talking about because their sister/brother/cousin/self outgrew it. I mean it is only my JOB and all. It says it right in the title. RESPIRATORY therapist.

But anyway.....What I think happens is when dr's have a little one that wheezes they automatically think asthma. Which is good because with little airways asthma can be exceptionally dangerous. But the wheezing could be because the kid just has a cold (RSV-which is another pet peeve but we'll save that for another time shall we?) or some other respiratory condition. The treatment for wheezing is pretty much the same no matter what causes it so they label it asthma to cover their ass. Then they watch the kid. If the wheezing reoccurs continually and has a pattern to the recurrences then they're good because the kid probably has asthma. They then order a pulmonary function test....which is the only way to really diagnose asthma but can't really be performed until the kid is older.

If they never wheeze again or it only reoccurs a few more times the kid then has "outgrown" the asthma. And no one ever gets corrected. And the myth make me nuts! Now if you have asthma as a kid that doesn't mean that it can't get better. You can get better at managing it. Avoid triggers and get on management meds. But if it truly is asthma you can still have an attack. I can't tell you how many asthmatics I have had in the ER who "outgrew" it until they had one bad attack that almost killed them.

And yes, Asthma can kill you. In high school a friend's sister had an attack and her airways closed off before she could get help. A former coworker had an attack and tried to drive herself to the hospital and didn't make it. It can happen. So to wrongly inform people that their disease can just "go away" is irresponsible.

In my opinion.


Terrie said...

good to know. i've been meaning to ask you this for a while, but what does a respiratory therapist do? i have some idea from little snippets from posts, but i'm still kind of fuzzy. :)

Sarah said...

@ Terrie, I didn't know what an RT did until I was in school for it so don't feel bad. We give breathing treatments, run the life support machines (and even "pull the plug"), and draw blood gases. Anything that has to do with breathing even down to the little premie babies who can't breathe on their own. We also do all the CPR for code blue's in the hospital.

Misti said...

Thank god I'm not the only one that gets irritated by people saying this. I too correct them all the time, and then they look at me like I'm crazy.
See you at work soon.

Heidi said...

I've had asthma all my life....and I never wheeze anymore. But I sure the hell have attacks...and it sucks it big time.

My favorite quote for silly RN's....not all asthma wheezes and not all wheezes are asthma.