Allergy & Asthma Network Mothers of Asthmatics (AANMA)

Life with Asthma and Allergies: Straight Talk from AANMA’s Teen Ambassadors

Published June - 30 - 2010 Print This Post

Media stories abound about brain development and why teens are prone to risky and self-absorbed behavior, but the truth is that many young people today are accomplishing great things and thinking great thoughts!

AANMA and AAT are celebrating some of these teens. Our Teen Asthma Ambassador Panel is a dynamic growing group of youth dedicated to reaching out and helping friends and neighbors overcome asthma and allergy related concerns. Teen Asthma Ambassadors help write and edit articles, conduct interviews, provide advice to AANMA’s board of directors, and work on community volunteer projects.

Do you have a teen between ages 13 to 19 who would like to become part of this program?  Interested parents and teens should contact AANMA at editor@aanma.org.


The first installment: Essays from a few of our Ambassadors about their early experiences dealing with asthma. 

Fitness In the End Zone
By Eric Jumper, age 14, Pennsylvania

A Good Day Goes Bad – In a Cloud of Smoke
By Gabby Farmer, age 15, California

Finding Help On My Own
By Gracie Terzian, age 19, Virginia

A Sage(brush) Solution
By John-Henry Lambin, age 17, Nevada

Running Out of Breath
By Rachael Lambin, age 19, Nevada


Fitness In the End Zone

By Eric Jumper, age 14, Pennsylvania

When I was in the 4th grade, my parents convinced me that playing football would be good for me.  They said getting more exercise and becoming physically fit would strengthen my body to be more equipped to handle my frequent asthma attacks.  I thought it would be really cool to play football, but I also thought my parents were crazy!

So there I was, in all this gear, in the hot weather. My doctor told me how to premedicate before practice, but even so, the first couple of weeks were really hard.  The other kids would run so much faster, I felt like a slug!  One of my coaches had asthma himself, so he understood what I was going through – and we also had a diabetic kid on the team with an insulin pump, so the coaches watched out for both of us. Since I couldn’t carry my inhaler on the field, my coach was the ‘holder of the inhaler’ (which I used alot that first year).

I remember that first year, I was on the ground more than I was playing.  My parents just said to keep going, kids with asthma play sports all the time.  One game the field was so dusty that I had an attack right there on the 50-yard line.  I lay there as everyone cleared the field and the EMTs came out.  My dad came over and I was so embarrassed, everyone was staring at me!!!   When I finally got up, people cheered!

My parents were right: I got stronger. My dad always used to say that I should learn to read my body and take myself out when I need to and he was right. I’m in the 8th grade now and this last season I was captain of our team; I made 4 touchdowns. My asthma is much more stable, but my coach is still the “holder of the inhaler.”


A Good Day Goes Bad – In a Cloud of Smoke
By Gabby Farmer, age 15, California

I was at softball practice in the evening, around dinnertime. In the middle of practice, I began to smell smoke, like something was on fire. I continued with practice, but the smoke smell started to get stronger. Then I started coughing. I continued with practice, thinking maybe I just had a tickle in my throat. I kept coughing and coughing, really bad, and started wheezing. I finally decided to go and tell my mom, who was holding my inhaler.

I walked over to her, and the first thing she said to me was, “Oh my goodness!” and handed me the inhaler. Then I asked how she knew that’s what I wanted. She said that my lips were blue and my fingernails were blue, which are signs of having really bad or severe breathing problems. I told her exactly what happened. Everything was fine until I smelled the smoke. She told me that smoke is a trigger for my asthma. She had heard on the radio that there was a grassfire that day. The wind must have been blowing the smoke our way.

This shows that asthma is not always predictable. It started out being one of those good days, and turned into a bad day. Even if you are like me, and take good care of yourself so you don’t have to worry about your asthma being a problem, an unexpected attack can happen. I carry my inhaler with me wherever I go, no matter what sport I’m playing. I am always prepared, in case I have a sudden asthma attack just like that one.


Finding Help On My Own

By Gracie Terzian, age 19, Virginia

I’ve just finished my first semester of college, and I’m learning a lot of things, including how to call the health center on my own and set up appointments. It’s the first time I’ve ever done that.

At the summer orientation, I got a small magnet in the shape of a telephone that has the numbers of the health center on it, including the night nurse. I keep it on my little refrigerator in my room, and it’s come in handy. I got swine flu this semester and because I have asthma, the health center gave me Tamiflu. They’re very nice and helpful, even at a big university, but you have to ask for help, and I’m still learning how to do that!


A Sage(brush) Solution

By John-Henry Lambin, age 17, Nevada

The first time I had to take care of an asthma attack was when I signed up for soccer team.  My dad was the coach, but didn’t have the constant time to help me when I had an attack or needed my medications.  I was a goalie and I while I was trying to hold the goal from balls getting kicked in, I was also struggling for a breath!  Yes, I was allergic to grass, sagebrush, you name it and it was all happening at once!  I realized then that I needed to take care of myself and carry my medication with me.   It was neat too: I remember working with my parents to drill holes in the plastic holder and put a string around it and I knew that my medicine would be with me always!


Running Out of Breath

 By Rachael Lambin, age 19, Nevada

The first time I had to take care of an asthma attack myself was when I was in 1st grade.   A school rule was that kids needed to put their medications in the nurse’s office and go there when we needed to take our medications.  I remember I was in class and our P.E. teacher came to collect us for our one-mile run.  I needed to take my medication before the run but the P.E. teacher said there wasn’t time and that we had to go to class and begin our run.  Unfortunately I ran the race and had a real problem breathing!  I remember my teacher saying to get up and just finish the run, that I was alright. He said that his son had asthma and that he didn’t need medicine and he could run with an attack.  I remember seeing stars and grasping for a breath, it was so scary!

I told my parents about this and thankfully my parents showed me how to use my medication and told me that I needed to carry it on me at all times regardless of what the school said.  The next time I ran the mile, I pulled it out of my pocket during P.E., exhaled and puffed and held my breath for 5 seconds.  After that, I could breathe again and I was very grateful to know what to do when that situation would occur again.”


First published in Allergy & Asthma Today, Spring 2010

Medical editors:  Ben Francisco, PhD, AE-C and Debra Mendelsohn