Registed Nurses' Association of Ontario


Nurses Target Asthma

TORONTO, May 2, 2006  – Ontario nurses today released two resources to help many Canadians breathe easier. To help mark World Asthma Day, the tools will allow nurses and other health-care providers to offer the best care, and minimize the condition for many asthma sufferers.

“These two resources will give nurses the latest evidence-based and practical strategies to help children and adults coping with asthma to live fuller and healthier lives. One in two people with asthma have poorly controlled asthma; one in 10 adults have asthma, and as a result restrict their everyday activities and suffer needlessly,” says director of the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario’s Nursing Best Practice Guidelines Program, Tazim Virani.  “These resources provide effective solutions for the ‘Unmet needs of Asthma,’ this year’s World Asthma Day theme,” she adds.

The two guidelines, Adult Asthma Care Guidelines for Nurses: Promoting Control of Asthma (2004) and Promoting Asthma Control in Children (2004), were released by RNAO to address the growing rates of asthma in Canada. Asthma is one of the most common chronic conditions, affecting 2.3 million Canadians over the age of four. Both resources provide specific clinical and educational information to enhance the knowledge and skills of nurses about asthma.

Asthma is the most common chronic illness affecting children and impacts up to 13 per cent of Ontario kids from birth to age 18.  “While a diagnosis of asthma is sometimes difficult in infants and very young children, effective control can mean so much to a young life – to be able to run, play and just be free to be a child,” says the RN lead on Promoting Asthma Control in Children, Jennifer Olajos-Clow, an asthma educator and an acute care nurse practitioner at Kingston General Hospital.  A diagnosis of asthma is considered when an infant or young child has had more than three episodes of wheezing lasting more than one day in the past year; night-time breathing difficulties; and is at high risk of developing asthma.

The resources outline the following questions for nurses to begin an asthma assessment: “Have you ever been told by a medical provider that you have asthma?” or “Have you used a puffer/inhaler or asthma medication for breathing problems?”

The resources note the hallmarks of good asthma control include:

  • You are using a “short-acting” puffer less than four times per week (unless for exercise)
  • You are having daytime asthma symptoms less than four times per week
  • You are having night time asthma symptoms less than once per week
  • You have normal physical activity levels
  • You have no absence from work or school related to your asthma; and
  • Asthma attacks are infrequent and mild.
The resources also recommend that a key part of asthma care includes regular follow-up visits with the health-care providers who are monitoring your condition.

“If you have asthma, you should have a personalized asthma action plan developed with your health-care provider that is right for you. These plans typically use the imagery of a traffic light. Green means go ahead and continue with current therapy and yellow means a time of caution – your asthma is not under good control and changes to your treatment need to occur. Red means danger – you need urgent medical care,” says RN lead on Promoting Asthma Control in Adults, Lisa Cicutto, a nurse practitioner and associate professor at University of Toronto’s faculty of nursing.

RNAO’s ambitious Best Practice Guidelines Program is funded by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care and was launched in 1999 to provide the best available evidence for patient care across a wide spectrum of health-care areas. The 29 guidelines developed to date are a substantive contribution towards building excellence in Ontario’s health-care system. They are available to nurses across Canada and abroad.

The Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario is the professional association representing registered nurses in Ontario.  Since 1925, RNAO has lobbied for healthy public policy, promoted excellence in nursing practice, increased nurses’ contribution to shaping the health-care system, and influenced decisions that affect nurses and the public they serve.  To learn more about RNAO’s Nursing Best Guidelines Program or to view these resources, please visit and click on the “ Best Practice Guidelines” link.



For more information, please contact:
Marion Zych, Director of Communications, RNAO
Phone: 416-408-5605
Toll free: 1-800-268-7199 ext.209
Cell: 647-406-5605