BAY SHORE, NY – Harvey Miller, MD, a specialist in asthma, allergy and immunology at Southside Hospital in Bay Shore, is on a quest to get legislation passed in New York State that will potentially save the lives of young athletes with asthma, a chronic inflammatory condition of the lung’s airways, and other pulmonary diseases. Dr. Miller has been responsible for running Southside Hospital’s Asthma Education and Support Program for 23 years and said he strongly believes that a nebulizer, not just an inhaler, should be available to all asthmatic athletes who play on court and field sports.
“This is extremely important because 23 million people in the US are asthmatics, with about 7.1 million being children, but there are no statistics from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on how many student athletes experience deadly attacks on athletic fields,” said Dr. Miller. He cites one such case that prompted him to reach out to local state legislators to seek legislation that would require nebulizers at school sporting events. “It was in 2003 that a college football player collapsed and died during a football game. He had a bronchial asthma attack on the field and died with his inhaler in his hand, when he really needed a nebulizer,” he added.
An inhaler is a small canister that dispenses a low dose of albuterol, a drug that relaxes the smooth muscles of the airways, restoring normal breathing. A nebulizer takes a larger dose of the drug and helps it to become a fine, inhalable mist that works quickly. A law passed in New York State in 2007 cites that a nebulizer – it has an average cost of about $150 -- can be placed only in schools with a physician or school nurse. Dr. Miller said he wants nebulizers available on the sidelines at school sporting events, and outside at after-school activities, not just locked up in school nurses’ medicine cabinets.
While no state currently has a nebulizer law, Dr. Miller is passionate about Resolution 161, a bill that he helped author, entitled “Use of Nebulizers on School Athletic Fields,” or what he calls ANEP, the Asthma Nebulizer Emergency Program. The bill cites the gravity of childhood asthma and the need for student athletes to have access to the best treatment during a medical emergency. Added provisions to the bill provide that instructions regarding the correct use of a nebulizer shall be included as a part of the health education curriculum in all senior high schools when cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) instruction is given.
Dr. Miller said he strongly believes that implementing his ANEP pilot program requiring nebulizers on school grounds for use during an emergency would save countless young lives. The bill has been introduced by state Assemblyman Philip Boyle, R-Bay Shore, and State Senator Owen Johnson, R-Babylon, has bipartisan support in both the New York State Assembly and State Senate, according to Dr. Miller. “We have to act now because studies have shown that asthma is becoming more prevalent and more severe, and we need to protect our children,” he said.