If your child has asthma, you may worry about how they cope with asthma at school. And you're not alone. Asthma is the leading long-term (chronic) illness among children and teens in the U.S. According to the CDC, it's one of the main reasons that students miss school. Research shows that informed, supportive teachers and staff can play a big role in helping students manage their asthma.
The CDC has found key strategies that teachers and staff can use to help children with asthma thrive at school. Not every strategy fits every school situation. But generally the more strategies used, the better. You can help by encouraging your child’s school to use these strategies:
Asthma education for all. Ideally all school staff should know the basics about asthma. They should also be taught how to respond to an asthma emergency. Basic information about asthma should be taught in health classes. Your child's Asthma Action Plan should be discussed with their teachers, the school nurse, and other key staff members.
School health services. You, your child, and your child’s healthcare provider should work together to create an Asthma Action Plan. It should cover issues such as asthma triggers and medicines, peak-flow, and watching symptoms. It should also include emergency procedures, when to call parents, when to call a provider, and when to call 911. Give a written copy of this plan to the school and the school nurse. Make sure your child’s teachers and other relevant staff members have the plan and understand it. Be sure staff members know how to give pain relief medicines. Be sure they all know where your child’s medicine is stored.
Healthy air quality. Tobacco use should be banned on school property. Good pest control methods can help control cockroaches and other allergy-causing pests. During any school construction or remodeling, steps should be taken to reduce dust and debris in the air. If you live in an area where the air quality varies, don't let your child play outside on bad air days.
Safe physical activities. All children need exercise. A child with asthma should be encouraged to do physical activities like everyone else. In some cases, the activity may need to be changed a bit so that it’s safe and suitable. Your child should also be able to get any medicines they might need before or during exercise.
Cooperation. The school should tell you about any steps being taken to help reduce exposure to triggers. And you need to update the school and the school nurse about any changes in your child’s Asthma Action Plan. Give them an updated copy of the plan.
Community support. The CDC has found that asthma-friendly schools work best when they have strong community support. All school staff need support from the school district and community.
Trigger avoidance. The school and key staff members must work with you and your child. They can help you find and reduce asthma triggers in the school.
So speak up, give suggestions, and share resources. You will you be helping your child. And you'll also be helping other children with asthma.
Good asthma control at school can improve your child’s ability to learn and take part in activities. Fewer symptoms also mean fewer limits on fun school activities. These include recess, sports, and field trips. Knowing that the school is ready to handle an asthma emergency means less worry for you. And teachers, the school nurse, and other staff members who understand asthma can better help your child and others.