Helping kids with asthma stay healthy, in school, and ready to learn

(May 16, 2013)

As we spotlight the severity of asthma throughout the month of May, creating asthma-friendlier schools becomes an important topic. Asthma is a life-long lung disease that affects millions of children in the U.S. and is a leading cause of lost school days from a chronic disease. Poorly controlled asthma has a direct impact on a child’s classroom attendance and can affect their academic success. By supporting and engaging in asthma management programs, schools and parents can work together to reduce the number of asthma-related absences, reduce the number of asthma emergencies, and help safeguard all students, faculty and staff.

Where should you begin? The American Lung Association has a number of resources and online tools to support the asthma safety efforts of school personnel, community volunteers, parents and caretakers. Here are some steps you can take to help make a difference:

For school personnel & volunteers: Create a healthy, asthma-friendly learning environment

  • Become an asthma expert. The school health office is the first line of defense during an asthma emergency. If you are a school nurse or school-based healthcare provider, learn how to provide guideline-based care or prepare to take the National Asthma Educator Certification Board’s exam to become a Certified Asthma Educator (AE-C) by participating in an Asthma Educator Institute®. The American Lung Association’s In Your Community tool can help you locate a course near you.
  • Educate students on asthma self-management. When children feel confident in their ability to manage asthma in school, they are better able to concentrate on learning. The Open Airways For Schools (OAS) program empowers elementary school children in a fun, interactive group setting. Learn how to become an OAS Certified Facilitator today!
  • Implement a multi-faceted approach to asthma management in schools. The most effective way to address asthma management in schools is through combined efforts that include: maximizing school health services, providing asthma education, ensuring a healthy school environment, and supporting participation in physical activity when a student with asthma is able. Find out how your school can incorporate these elements to create a long-term asthma management plan through the Asthma-Friendly Schools Initiative (ASFI). The AFSI Toolkit’s guidance can help your school create a plan that is unique to your specific community’s needs and available resources.
  • Get recognized for your school’s efforts. Does your school already have a comprehensive plan to improve asthma in school? If so, your school may be eligible for the 2013 AFSI Champion Awards.  These Awards spotlight the great work being done nationwide to create healthy learning environments for all students. There are two award levels based on the scope of the school’s asthma management plan. Application deadline is June 15, 2013. Apply today!

For parents & caregivers: Provide a supportive, asthma-friendly home

  • Learn more about asthma. The more you know about your child’s asthma, the better prepared you are to help them manage their disease, handle an emergency and reduce environmental triggers. Do you like learning online? Take the American Lung Association Asthma Basics online course. Also, learn the correct way to use asthma medicines and devices by viewing the American Lung Association’s demonstration videos on asthma medicines.
  • Use fun and imagination to help strengthen your child’s asthma self-management skills. What would you do if you were attacked by the Mucus Mob? Learning to manage your asthma can be fun with Lungtropolis®, an online learning game for children with asthma ages 5-10 and their parents.
  • Create and participate in a support community. Even parents and caregivers need a little help at times. The My Fighting For Air Community is a free, online tool for people with lung disease and their families to help coordinate support among family, friends, and neighbors during difficult times. Join the Lung Connection to share thoughts and gain support from other parents and caregivers of children with asthma.

Additional resources for community advocates and policy makers working to establish asthma-friendlier environments are available in the Guide to Asthma Policy for Housing and Schools.

For more information and support managing your child’s asthma, call the American Lung Association HelpLine at 1-800-586-4872 to speak with a lung health specialist.