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An Otter Got my Kid to Use an Inhaler

My preschooler has asthma. When he was diagnosed, we got books on asthma for kids and explored the Sesame Street A is For Asthma website (a wonderful resource for kids who like Sesame Street). But, nothing seemed get him interested in his daily inhaler with it’s spacer and mask that went over his mouth and nose.

For a while, we pretended that he was a robot. But, that got old fast, and he frequently sat fidgeting (sometimes holding his breath) until he could get the thing off his face again.

Then, we discovered Mishka, the first sea otter to be diagnosed with asthma.

Mishka is pretty awesome. She came to the Seattle Aquarium from Alaska in January 2015, and when the smoke from wildfires caused her to have a full-blown asthma attack in September, she was diagnosed.

Over the course of the last year, she learned how to use her inhaler, which you can see her use in this short video from the aquarium in which Mishka pushes the button that releases her medicine from the inhaler, then takes a breath.

The articles, graphics and videos about Mishka have been huge for getting my child to use his inhaler and helping him understand asthma. So, I’m compiling them here if anyone else is in the same situation.

A short Q&A on Mishka on the Aquarium’s blog answers burning kid questions like whether or not wild animals can have asthma (they can). A Washington Post article discusses Mishka’s asthma and the lack of genetic diversity in the Washington state sea otter population (way over a toddler’s head, but interesting for adults or older kids).

One local news video goes over the diagnosis and explains it in context of greater environmental issues. The video is especially helpful because it has a brief close up of the inhaler that shows just how similar it is to the ones children use. Another local news story and ABC News have longer clips of Mishka using her inhaler. Next Media has an animated clip that shows the air particles, lungs, and inhaler in action (but I suggest muting it and explaining the content, because the voice over is monotone).

For general sea otter information, there is a live Sea Otter cam in southern California that is hit or miss and the Seattle Aquarium live otter cam. has a ton of resources including a live sea otter cam, illustrations of bones, a map and graphs, a step-section of a fetus you can zoom in on to see tissues and organs, an interactive otter tracker map, and more. has some cool videos, including one featuring Mishka’s poop and a live cam that shows recorded video during off hours. Kids can also learn at Ranger Rick, or watch a video about kelp and sea otters at National Geographic.

All in all, if you have a child with asthma, Mishka might be a fun way to get them more engaged in learning about their condition.

(featured image is a still image from a Seattle Aquarium video)


Deek lives with her husband, twin sons and two cats in the northwest. She teaches and writes about parenting in the NICU, her experiences as a parent of micro-preemies and skeptical parenting.

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