Asthma is one of the most common disorders impacting children and a leading cause of hospitalization, but thanks to one Kaiser Permanente pediatrician, care and treatment of this common disease is more fun.
Comics have been a longtime passion and hobby for Olympia Medical Center pediatrician Frank Wood, MD, so it was a natural fit to combine this interest and the care he provides for kids.
“I noticed there were a lot of kids diagnosed with asthma when I was working on a military base in Texas,” Dr. Wood recalled. “I wrote the comics in 1993 and illustrated the first versions myself with Sharpies and coloring pens.”
Those initial drawings have expanded into a series of 5 comics featuring characters Albuteman, Fusion, Aerosol Girl, and Steroid Sam highlighting asthma maintenance, emergency medication, and proper technique for inhalers.
Those early drawings were just the start
“It just so happened that my comics caught the eye of a graphic artist and he said, ‘Hey, we could make this look professional.’ He knew a comic book illustrator and he introduced us. He redid my comics word for word, panel by panel, picture by picture, and it looks so much better,” Dr. Wood laughed.
Dr. Wood didn’t stop there. Now the superheroes come to life in the Kaiser Permanente Olympia Medical Center clinic.
Dr. Wood said his brave and kind-hearted colleagues have stepped into the brightly colored outfits. “I’ve been fortunate that everywhere I’ve gone, I can find people with a heart for children who like dressing up for the day.”
Laura Wheeler, family medicine PA-C at Olympia Medical Center, has stepped into the role of Aerosol Girl.
“People of all ages like superheroes,” Wheeler said. “To put names and characters to these situations and then name the medications that help as the heroes can bring this to a level that kids can understand, and that brings some self-empowerment to the experience.”
The response from our youngest patients?
“They love it,” Dr. Wood said. “They like the colors — they respond to that and the high energy. It’s exciting to see kids fully embrace this, and parents dig it, too.”
Dr. Wood hopes the superheroes make a sometimes-challenging childhood experience feel empowering.
“For my patients with asthma, it can be no fun, but a lot of success in treating this disease is about prevention, education, and knowing what your triggers are. That hopefully excites kids about the care and management they need. Asthma doesn’t have to be scary. It’s something you can manage and enjoy a full and wonderful life.”
Managing asthma during wildfire season
Patients with respiratory conditions are at greater risk for health effects from wildfire smoke.
Dr. Wood’s tips for asthma patients of all ages:
- Know your triggers: Pay extra attention to your medication on days when there is smoke from wildfires in the air or other triggers are present.
- Be ready: Stay indoors if needed and pre-treat for asthma before going outside to play.
- Act fast: Children or teenagers may try to push through symptoms of asthma or wait too long to take their medication. If you feel symptoms, take your rescue medication as soon as possible. Pay attention to how fast the medication is working in case you need to reach out for extra help.
- Keep your home healthy: When the air quality is poor outside, make your home a safe space. Vacuum and dust regularly and consider humidification.
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