Preschoolers with asthma can breathe easier now that they have their own respirators at school.

Throughout the week, 20 preschools in Goleta, Santa Barbara and Carpinteria will receive medical air compressor units. Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, along with Metro-med, a company that sells home respiratory and medical equipment, donated the units in honor of Respiratory Care Week.

“Nowadays, schools often can’t afford pencils, let alone respirators,” said Paul Sherman, a respiratory care practitioner at Cottage Hospital.

Respiratory care practitioners treat patients with asthma, help diagnose sleep disorders and work with anesthesiologists to watch a patient’s breathing during surgery.

Sherman said he previously thought that respirators were not allowed in public schools. When he discovered otherwise, he began looking into donating the units to local schools. Sherman said many children need to use a respirator because other treatment options, such as an inhaler, are too difficult for them to perform.

The Isla Vista Youth Project is one of the preschools that will receive the new respirators.

“More and more children are coming down with asthma, and the disease, if untreated, can become fatal,” IVYP director Kim Prendergast said.

The IVYP, located at 892 Camino del Sur, provides preschool and after-school services to more than 100 children daily. Prendergast said that previously, children had to bring their own respirators to the center, and children who were without health insurance did not have access to a respirator.

“We have staff professionally trained to use the respirators, and these donated respirators are definitely something that can be put to good use,” Prendergast said.