LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Asthma is third leading cause of hospitalization among people younger than 15.

The condition causes the airways to constrict and can be life-threatening if not properly managed, and if a child with asthma also has allergies, it’s a double-whammy.

Tayonni “Onni” Westbrooks loves to be head over heels.

“I’m able to do cartwheels, split, back bends,” Onni said.

She’s finally able to get the air she needs. From the time Onni was 1-month-old, she had trouble breathing. She had severe asthma. Her mother took her to countless doctors and tried every medication available.

“As she got older, they were trying different injections, different medications,” said LaToya Westbrooks. “She was on five inhalers.”

Onni was allergic to dust, grass, pollen, dander and pets. The combination of asthma and allergies would trigger life-threatening reactions. She used to be hospitalized almost once a month.

In 2021, the Westbrooks were referred to the Pulmonary and Allergy Personalized Asthma clinic (PAPA), where pediatric pulmonologists and allergists worked together to wean Onni off a high volume of steroids.

“We came up with a strategy where we were using a combination inhaler that we used several times a day initially to get her under control,” said Dr. Jeffrey Ewig.

“When we did our most recent virtual visit with her, she was actually on a bouncy ball hopping up and down on the bouncy ball throughout the visit,” Dr. Priya Patel said.

Onni’s doctors also teach behavioral changes, steps she can take first before grabbing her inhaler. They also worked with the family on lifestyle changes and helped her recognize her allergy triggers to reduce the frequency of attacks.

More: Health stories

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