STERLING – Imagine trying to perform your daily routine while sucking on a straw. That’s how Del Northrup, of New Raymer, describes living with asthma. A lot of people don’t understand what asthma is, he said.

Asthma is the inflammation and narrowing of the airways, often triggered by pollutants such as dust and smoke. Northrup has had asthma for 47 years, since he was 8 years old. One day at school he was sitting on a hay bale and he started having shortness of breath; he went to the doctor and that was when he was diagnosed with asthma.

Keeping his asthma under control can be difficult because his triggers are mold and wheat dust and he is a wheat farmer. One thing he does to keep his asthma under control while working is to stay upwind. Northrup also wears a respirator and tries to stay out of moldy and dusty places when he can. Northrup said it’s important to know what your triggers are and to stay away from them. Also, if you do have an attack, stay calm, don’t panic.

He is an at-risk patient, so he keeps a nebulizer at home which he uses when he has an outbreak. Northrup has also taken daily medications for asthma for most of his life, starting in high school. He pointed out that asthma used to be treated with a lot of steroids, but now there are a lot of newer medicines that don’t have the side effects the old one’s did. If you think you have asthma you should see a specialist. Every year, approximately 5,000 people are hospitalized in Colorado for asthma. Children under five are at the greatest risk for developing asthma symptoms severe enough to require hospitalization. Counties in eastern Colorado have been hit especially hard by asthma. Hospitalization rates for asthma in Logan, Morgan, Lincoln, Kit Karson, Cheyenne, Otero, Prowers and Baca Counties are among the highest in the state. To help fight this epidemic, the High Plains Research Network has partnered with National Jewish Health to implement the Asthma Toolkits program in primary care practices across eastern Colorado. Asthma Toolkits provide physicians with up-to-date training and equipment to diagnose and treat asthma in the most effective way possible. Doctors also get asthma toolkits filled with helpful information and peak flow meter for their patients. Patients can also sign up for a telephone outreach program. This provides useful information about asthma and other free services. The Asthma Tool Kits program is available in primary care practices all over eastern Colorado, including: Dr. Durand Kahler, Dr. Van Schooneveld, Family Care Clinic, High Country Internal Medicine and Salud Clinic in Sterling, as well as Northeastern Junior College.

Callie Jones: (970) 526-9286; <a href=””></a>