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2005 Press Releases

Contact: Julie Osgood, MaineHealth, (207) 541-7515

Camp Provides a Breath of Fresh Air to Maine Kids

(Winthrop, Maine)-
Along with his swimsuit, goggles, and sandals, 11-year old Wesley Garant of Farmingdale had to pack his inhaler and asthma medicine when he was preparing to leave for a week at AH! Asthma Camp.  He’ll join 31 other children from all over the state of Maine who will spend a week learning how to better control their asthma, in addition to swimming and sailing.

Now in its fifth year of operation, AH! Asthma Camp is the only overnight camp for children with asthma in Maine .  Priority is given to those who have severe asthma and who have never been to Camp previously.  Campers range in age from 8 to 13, both boys and girls.  Many have not been away from home overnight before due to the severity of their disease.  The fact that doctors and nurses staff Asthma Camp around the clock gives families the peace of mind they need to have their children participate.

AH! Camp is sponsored by MaineHealth, the state’s largest health system, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, and TD BankNorth.  The AH! Programs at Maine Medical Center , Southern Maine Medical Center participate, as does the American Lung Association of Maine.  Contributions from these sponsors provide “camperships” that allow eligible children to attend free of charge.

According to Rhonda Vosmus, a respiratory therapist from Maine Medical Center who serves as Camp Coordinator, campers learn how and when to take their medications correctly.  “Many of the kids who come to camp have never learned about the things that can make their asthma worse, and how to deal with these things themselves.  Ozone, pets, environmental tobacco smoke, and other  ‘triggers’ can make asthma worse, and kids can do a lot on their own to prevent exposure to these things.”

Over the past ten years asthma rates in the US have doubled, puzzling scientists as to the exact cause.  Maine has the second highest rate of adult asthma in the nation (9%), behind Massachusetts .  Childhood asthma rates in Maine vary by county, from 6% to more than 13%, and the disease accounts for more school absences than any other chronic condition. Asthma is a chronic inflammation of the airways that is usually treated with a combination o two medicines, one aimed at controlling asthma symptoms from day to day and the other a so-called rescue drug. 

Asthma can’t be blamed on any single cause, but more and more evidence suggests that environmental factors are an important contributor.  These factors include indoor and outdoor triggers such as dust mites, pollen, cockroaches, smoke, and ozone.

MaineHealth and other medical and public health organizations developed the AH! Asthma Health Program eight years ago to improve the health of children and adults with asthma.  The program involves doctors, hospitals, schools, child care centers, and others in a coordinated approach.  AH! Camp is the most important annual event that is focused on children who are affected by asthma.









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