Kids Missing School Because of Asthma?

Having an Asthma Team Can Help

Many kids spend the majority of their day at school or in after-school activities and away from parents or guardians, so it's important that every caregiver in your child's life knows that they have asthma, as well as what to look for when symptoms start and what to do if they have trouble breathing. Children with asthma should be encouraged by caregivers to be active, participate in school and other activities, and should not let asthma be a crutch. A team approach can help to ensure that they will be safe and healthy when they are outside a parent or guardian's reach.

Asthma is one of the most common illness-related reasons that children miss school. According the 2013 National Health Interview Survey, close to half of school-aged children (49%) were absent at least one or more days from school because they had asthma symptoms. When children miss school, their academic performance can slip, making students more vulnerable to falling behind in class. Frequent absences can affect their ability to advance or even graduate from high school.  Having an asthma team in place both at school and at home may increase safety and attendance.

You're the Coach

Parents or guardians can play a key role in ensuring that kids stay healthy and safe during the school day. At least one parent or guardian should accept the role as your child's "asthma partner." In this role, sort of like a team coach, you can help your child monitor and assess his or her asthma. There are several ways that you can lead the team effort for your child:

  • Work with your child's asthma care provider to ensure your child is getting the best treatment for their asthma;
  • Help your child learn more about asthma so they have the skills to self-manage their disease; and
  • Educate your child's caregivers, such as school nurses, teachers, coaches, grandparents, and sitters about your child's asthma.

Work Together to Know When Your Child Is Ready to Self-Carry

Children with a diagnosis of asthma should have quick-relief medication available to them at all times. The medication can be inhaled using an inhaler or a nebulizer. Quick-relief asthma medicine works immediately to open the airways when a person with asthma is having symptoms.

You may wonder if your child is mature enough to carry and self-administer asthma inhalers at school. Elementary-aged children, 8 years of age and older, can learn to manage their own asthma, including avoiding their triggers, recognizing their signs and symptoms, and taking their medicine appropriately. Work with your child's asthma care provider and school to determine your child's readiness to self-carry.

Things to Consider:

  • Does your child want to carry and self-administer asthma medicines?
  • Can your child identify warning signs and symptoms of asthma?
  • Does your child understand which medicine to take and when?
  • Does your child use correct technique when using the inhaler?
  • Is your child aware of the possible side effects of asthma medicines and what to report?
  • Is your child willing to keep their asthma inhaler with him/her at all times?
  • Is your child willing to notify a responsible adult (e.g., teacher, nurse, coach, playground assistant) during the day when a quick-relief inhaler is used?

Make a Game Plan

Deciding whether your child has the skills to be responsible can be tricky for parents and school personnel. Use this tool to help identify your child's capabilities and areas that need improvement. Make a plan to work with your child to build the knowledge and skills to self-manage. For a good overview of asthma and good asthma management, take our free, one-hour online learning course, Asthma Basics.

Help your child learn the skills to self-carry and administer their asthma medicines during this Asthma Awareness Month. Work with your child, his or her asthma care provider, the school and other caregivers to keep your child healthy. When asthma is well-managed, your child can be healthy, in school and ready to learn.

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Related Topic: Health & Wellness

  • Barbara M. Kaplan, MPH, CHES
    National Director, Lung Health Education
    American Lung Association
    Barbara Kaplan is the director of lung health education at the American Lung Association National Office in Washington, DC.

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