Back to School with Asthma Toolkit | American Lung Association

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Back to School with Asthma Toolkit

Asthma is a leading chronic condition that causes students to miss school, which can directly affect their academic success. Addressing asthma management in school can help establish an environment that supports both learning and safety.

Top 10 Ways School Staff Can Support an Asthma-friendly School

  • Know which students are at risk for an asthma emergency.
    At the beginning of the school year, make sure your school's Health Inquiry Form includes asthma-related questions. Tracking students with asthma can ensure that students with the greatest need receive proper health services. Electronic medical records or downloadable programs such as the Asthma Incidence Reporter (AIR) Database can help school nurses identify patterns in a student's health record, and track absences and emergency room visits. Find more resources for tracking students with asthma in the Maximizing School Health Services section of the Asthma-Friendly Schools Initiative (AFSI) Toolkit.
  • Have an Asthma Action Plan on file for each student diagnosed with asthma.
    An Asthma Action Plan is a document that is created between a doctor and a patient with directions on actions to take based on asthma symptoms or peak flow readings. A copy of a student's asthma action plan should be filed in the school nurse's office. It's recommended that teachers and school staff have copies of an asthma action plan for those students they see on a regular basis. Learn more about asthma action plans and policies.
  • Provide access to quick-relief medicines.
    All 50 states and the District of Columbia have laws in place that allow students to carry and use their asthma medicines while at school; however, schools tend to have different requirements based on a student's age, medication needs and the maturity to self-carry and self-administer. Schools should inform parents about the law along with any school district policies or required paperwork, such as a medication release form (Español). Additional information on school policies can be found on our Asthma Medication in Schools page.
  • Ensure good indoor air quality (IAQ).
    Poor indoor air can affect the health of both students and staff. Many indoor air pollutants can also bring on, or trigger, a person's asthma symptoms. Help keep your students safe by reducing or eliminating IAQ problems in the classroom by watching out for asthma triggers such as mold, pet dander, air fresheners and cleaning chemicals. Learn about the importance of a school's IAQ in this section of the AFSI Toolkit.
  • Establish and communicate your school's emergency protocol. A set of protocols to use in case of an asthma emergency can save lives and increase the confidence of teachers and staff that are working with children who have asthma. Learn more about asthma emergency protocols in the ASFI approach. For school nurses, the National Asthma Education and Prevention Program (NAEPP) created a suggested emergency protocol for student without an asthma action plan on file.
  • Adopt a comprehensive tobacco-free campus policy.
    Tobacco smoke is dangerous to all people, especially those with asthma. To keep the school community safe, adopt a tobacco-free policy for both the indoor and outdoor environments of your schools. Offering quit smoking services for school personnel, such as Freedom From Smoking® Online, can help support your tobacco-free school policy. Learn more about tobacco-free schools, including sample policies here.
  • Have a full-time registered nurse in the school.
    School nurses are uniquely qualified individuals that provide health services and health counseling to students in the school. With limited budgets, many districts have opted to hire fewer nurses and rely more heavily on paraprofessionals. Both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Association of School Nurses recommends school nurses for day-to-day health services. Policy resources and information are available to support your efforts. Help students and their families get access to affordable health insurance. School nurses are uniquely able to motivate parents and link them to resources in the community.
    • Refer individuals to the Lung HelpLine, a Certified Application Counselor Organization at 1-800-LUNGUSA or 1-800-586-4872.
    • Download free materials, such as palmcards, posters and fact sheets from to promote enrollment in Medicaid and CHIP.
  • Educate, educate, educate.
    Offering asthma education to teachers, school staff, parents and children will make the classroom that much safer. Programs like the American Lung Association Asthma Basics online course are available to help make sure the adults in your school understand asthma and are ready to prevent an asthma emergency. Students with asthma can benefit from the Open Airways For Schools® program, where children ages 8 to 11 can learn about their condition in an interactive and supportive group environment. 
  • Reduce student exposure on high pollution days.
    Outdoor air pollution can make breathing difficult, even for people without asthma. Check for your local air quality on a daily basis and modify activities accordingly. Learn more about managing student exposure to outdoor air on high pollution days. Beware of other potential outdoor air quality asthma triggers such as the exhaust fumes from idling cars and buses waiting for students in front of the school.
  • Encourage physical activity when a child with asthma is able.
    Staying active benefits all students, but may be daunting for students with asthma or their caregivers. Providing asthma education to PE instructors or coaches, managing physical activity and offering modifications to activity when needed can keep students with asthma in the game. Learn strategies to manage physical education throughout the school year using the Asthma-Friendly Schools Initiative Toolkit.

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