Asthma in Schools: The Basics for Parents
How asthma-friendly is your school? Accounting for more than 10 million lost school days every year, asthma is one of the main illness-related reasons that students miss school. The air children breathe in school is critical to their success in the classroom and their overall health. As a parent or caretaker, learn how you can work with your community to support healthy air at school, keeping students with asthma healthy and ready to learn.
As the parent or guardian of a child with asthma, you have lots of questions about how can you work with your school to make sure your child stays safe and healthy during the day.
Here are some resources that can help:
Communicating with Schools about Asthma
Managing a child's asthma is a team effort, involving you, your child, your child's healthcare providers and the school. All members of the team want to be able to communicate, ask questions, and share information about your child's health and well-being.
You probably have lots of questions and concerns about how your child's asthma can be managed while they are at school. Here are some tips for effective communication:
- At the beginning of the school year, make sure to contact school health services and let them know about your child's asthma. This provides you with the opportunity to get to know the school nurse and any other health services staff.
- By law, the school needs your permission to communicate student health information to your child's healthcare provider. Find out from the school what they need from you to allow this important communication to happen. That way if prescriptions change, or if your child has an asthma emergency, everyone on "the team" can be kept informed.
- Be sure your child has a recent Asthma Action Plan on file at the school. If for some reason you cannot get your child's doctor to complete one, talk to the school nurse about what to do.
- Ensure that your child has immediate access to quick-relief medicine in case your child has an asthma flare-up while at school. In many schools districts, policies are in place that allows a student to carry and self-administer their own asthma medication. Contact the school health services staff to find out more about your school's policy and practice.
- Include discussion about your child's asthma management during parent/teacher meetings or conferences.
Some questions you should be sure to ask:
- What steps can I take to have my child carry and use his or her own inhaler?
- Will all of my child's teachers and coaches have a copy of his or her updated Asthma Action Plan?
- Is there a full-time school nurse or health assistant in the school all day, every day, or is there trained staff to access and administer medications?
- Are there communication systems in school (intercom, walkie-talkie, cell phones, pagers) to contact appropriate staff in case of a medical emergency?
- Are school staff members (including after-school coaches and bus drivers) trained to respond to asthma emergencies?
Back-to-School with Asthma Checklist
Use our Back-to-School Checklist to make sure you and your child are ready for a safe and healthy school year.
Can My Child Carry an Inhaler at School?
All 50 states have laws in place that allow students with asthma to carry and self-administer asthma quick-relief inhalers and other lifesaving medicines. The laws vary by state and each school district may have its own policy and paperwork requirements. Contact your school nurse or school officials and ask about the self-carry/self-administration policy in your school district.
You may wonder if your child is mature enough to carry and self-administer asthma inhalers at school. Even young children can be encouraged to 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 healthcare provider and school to determine if this is the best option for your child.
Things to Consider:
- Does your child want to be able 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 comply with school's rules about use of medicine at school, which might include:
- Keeping the asthma inhaler with him/her at all times;
- Notifying a responsible adult (e.g., teacher, nurse, coach, playground assistant) during the day when a quick-relief inhaler is used;
- Not sharing asthma medicine with other students or leaving the medicine unattended;
- Not using a quick-relief asthma inhaler for any other use than what is intended.
Working with your child, his or her healthcare provider, and the school is the best way to keep your child healthy, in school and ready to learn. When asthma is well managed, a child should not need to use "quick-relief" or "rescue" medicines often. Quick-relief asthma medicine should immediately open the airways during an asthma episode or "attack" and can be lifesaving. It is critical that students learn to self-carry and administer asthma medicines while at school.
Online Learning Opportunities
The more you know about asthma the better prepared you are to support your child's asthma management in school. The American Lung Association's Asthma Basics free online course can help you to understand asthma, identify symptoms of asthma, recognize what can cause asthma symptoms, how to respond to an asthma emergency and much more. Learn more about Asthma Basics.
Asthma in School Resources for School Personnel
Are you a teacher, school nurse or school staff member interested in creating an asthma-friendly learning environment?