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Asthma

What a Sea Otter Can Teach Us About Asthma

otterSeattle Aquarium staff motivate Mishka the Sea Otter to take breaths from her asthma inhaler with bits of food.

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: One-year-old Mishka of the Seattle Aquarium, demonstrating the proper use of an inhaler last week.

Mishka is a sea otter, and 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. About a month ago, as wildfires near Puget Sound raged, staff noticed that the animal, who’s been living at the aquarium since January, 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 are training her to use an inhaler, by using food to encourage Mishka to take a breath from a modified device. Basically, the action is the same as a human would take, and even the medication is similar to that used by human patients.

What’s the lesson for us? One pediatric allergy and asthma specialist had this to say on Twitter:

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

All About Asthma
Are You Using Your Auto-Injector Or Inhaler Correctly?
Asthma Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment
Asthma and Smog: Does Air Pollution Cause Asthma?

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