What a Sea Otter Can Teach Us About Asthma

in Asthma, Features

Teaching asthma treatment, especially to a newly diagnosed child, can be challenging, and for parents, worrisome.

When it comes to using an inhaler correctly, it’s not always easy for people to learn, especially when they’re young. Holding the inhaler correctly and using a spacer can help.

Exhibit A: The sea otter Mishka of the Seattle Aquarium, demonstrating the proper use of an inhaler. Beyond being the mere usual level of cute exhibited by most otters – swimming playfully and interacting with humans almost like a family pet would – Mishka has asthma.

During wildfires near Puget Sound a couple of years ago, staff noticed that the animal was having trouble breathing. After testing her lungs, doing blood work and reading radiographs, veterinarians on site diagnosed her with asthma, which can occur in any animal that has lungs.

Now her keepers have trained her to use an inhaler. They did this by using food to encourage Mishka to take a breath from a modified device. The action is basically the same as a human would take, and even the medication is similar to the corticosteroids used by human patients.

What’s the lesson for us? As one pediatric allergy and asthma specialist put it: If a sea otter can learn how to use an inhaler, you can too!

And speaking of human patients, if you’re looking for any information related to asthma diagnosis and treatment, we’ve got great resources for you here:

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