Helping Kids with Asthma Prepare for School

(July 28, 2010)

If you have a child with asthma, now is the time to prepare for the start of school. Returning to the school environment always poses challenges to kids with asthma, with the increased exposure to asthma triggers and respiratory infections, like influenza.  Children with asthma are at greater risk from influenza. The American Lung Association has tips to help you prepare to go back to school with asthma.

Wash up

Good hygiene is the best and first line of defense against any type of cold or flu.   Make sure your child washes his or her hands frequently, especially after coughing or sneezing.  They should cover their nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, or cough into the corner of their arm, not their hands. 

Get vaccinated

All children, especially those with asthma, should get a flu vaccination. It's important to remember that the flu is a serious illness, and that the best way to protect you and your child is for the whole family to get vaccinated. Unlike last year, when the H1N1 flu posed an additional threat, this flu season there will be no separate vaccine for H1N1 influenza.  H1N1 will be part of the regular flu vaccine, so this year there will only be one flu vaccination required.

Back to School Checklist

To better prepare you and your child with asthma to go back to school, the Lung Association recommends you complete this checklist.

  • Asthma Action Plan: All students with asthma should have a written Asthma Action Plan, developed between you and your healthcare provider that details personal information about the child's asthma symptoms, medications, any physical activity limitations and provides specific instructions about what to do if an asthma attack does not improve with prescribed medication. You can download a printable Asthma Action Plan here.
  • Schedule Asthma Check-up Doctor's Appointment: Even if your child's asthma is well managed, Asthma Action Plans should be updated each school year, so schedule a check up with your healthcare provider.  This is critical to ensuring your child's asthma continues to be effectively controlled, and provides an opportunity to evaluate medications and physical activity restrictions.  Remember to give a copy of the completed Asthma Action Plan to your child's school.
  • Vaccinate Yourself and Your Child Against Seasonal Influenza: The CDC now recommends everyone over the age of six months get a flu vaccination. By protecting yourself against seasonal influenza by getting vaccinated, you also help further protect your child.
  • Visit Your Child's School Nurse and Teachers: All of the student's teachers, coaches, as well as the school nurse and/or office should have a current copy of their Asthma Action Plan. Discuss with your child's teachers specific triggers and typical symptoms so that they can be prepared to effectively assist your child should an asthma attack occur during the school day.
  • Know Your School's Asthma Emergency Plan: Ensure that your child's school knows how to contact you in case of an emergency. It is also important for parents to know the school's past history of dealing with asthma episodes. Parents should confirm that school staff— including after-school coaches and bus drivers have been trained in responding to asthma emergencies.
  • Advocate for Your Child: Students have the right to carry asthma medications to school.  Learn what your child's schools requirements are; some schools require students to carry a note from their doctor. Learn what steps need to be taken to have your child carry and use their inhaler if recommended by their doctor. Check out additional resources through the AFSI Toolkit which is available for free online.
  • Know About Prescription Assistance Services: No one should have to do without their asthma medications because of financial need. Three organizations are available to help:
    1. The Partnership for Prescription Assistance can be reached by calling 1-888-4PPA-NOW.
    2. Rx Outreach also provides information on their website: www.rxoutreach.com. 3) Patient Services Incorporated: http://www.uneedpsi.org/cms400min/index.aspx.

The Lung Association has much more helpful information about asthma and children here, or you can call our Lung Helpline at 1-800-LUNG-USA.