By Art Holliday
ST. LOUIS (KSDK) - "In the beginning, it was extremely scary, because I didn't know anyone who had asthma," said Julie Ballard.
Thanks to asthma and allergies, Ballard now home schools her 12-year-son Michael. Ten trips to the hospital caused him to fall behind in public school.
"It's like choking on something," said Michael. "It gets really hard to breathe sometimes and your face gets red."
And there's the cost of asthma medication, sometimes hundreds of dollars a month.
"Unfortunately the insurance we had did not cover his medicine and it can be quite expensive with the different medications he's on," said Julie Ballard.
Project Concern was a huge help to the Ballards. Project Concern is an asthma and allergy management program for uninsured or underinsured children and young adults up to age 22. Sponsored by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, it pays for necessary medication and equipment.
"The referrals come from the hospitals or the physicians' offices, sometimes school nurses," said Joy Krieger, executive director of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation St. Louis. "We pay for all the kids' medicines or their nebulizer or durable equipment needs."
Every day 36,000 children miss school because of asthma. That's according to the Asthma and Allergy foundation. Asthma is a major issue for school nurses like Linda Neumann of Hixson Middle School in Webster Groves. She counsels many students with asthma including athletes.
"For those who have exercise-induced asthma, I advise them to use their inhaler prior to running," said Neumann. "Usually they don't have any problem afterwards."
A recent Missouri state law enacted in 2012 allows school nurses to use nebulizers and administer asthma rescue medication to children. The only law of its kind in the nation allows nurses to keep kids out of emergency rooms when there's an asthma attack.
"So she now has permission through her own medical knowledge and expertise to have the equipment and the medicine to save a child's life at school," said Krieger.