PUBLIC HEALTH INSIDER

You otter know (about asthma)

Asthma impacts nine percent of adults, five percent of kids, and one sea otter in King County. Yes, a sea otter. Last fall, Mishka, a one-year-old sea otter at the Seattle Aquarium was diagnosed with asthma.

Don’t know much about asthma? Public Health Insider teamed up with Mishka and her friends at the Seattle Aquarium to kelp you out.

PHI: Hey, Mishka, what’s asthma?

Mishka: Asthma is a lung disease. People and animals with asthma have sensitive airways in their lungs. When they come into contact with irritating things called “triggers,” these airways swell and narrow, making it difficult to get enough oxygen. Breathing during an asthma attack feels like trying to breathe through a tiny straw. Scary!

PHI: What are some asthma triggers?

Seiku: Asthma has many triggers. The most common ones for humans are allergies to pets, dust mites, mold or mildew, and smoke. Mishka’s asthma was first triggered by smoke from wild fires in Washington last summer.

PHI: Who gets asthma?

Lootas: Anyone can get asthma, even otters! We don’t know exactly what causes someone to get asthma. The most important thing is seeing a healthcare provider who can help you learn your triggers and develop a plan to treat your asthma.

PHI: Is there a cure?

Adaa: Asthma is a long-term disease that doesn’t have a cure, but it can be managed. If you have asthma, you can learn your warning signs and make changes to live symptom free!

PHI: What can someone with asthma do to stay healthy?

Anniak: That’s a great question! A safe, clean home environment is one of the most important ways to manage asthma. It’s also important for those with asthma to take medicine regularly, even when they’re not feeling sick. Mishka takes her controller medicine every day!

PHI: What else should people know about asthma?

Mishka: Whether you’re human or an otter species, asthma is controllable! If you have asthma, you can learn your warning signs, get the right medicine, and make changes to live a healthy, active life. Look at me, I swim and play all day!