Back to School with Asthma Toolkit for Schools

Asthma is a leading chronic condition that causes students to miss school, which can directly affect their academic success.

The American Lung Association has several helpful tips and resources for schools as they prepare for the 2022-2023 school year.

Vaccinations

Respiratory illness is a common cause for asthma symptoms and asthma episodes. Children with asthma may be at higher risk for complications from respiratory viruses such as COVID-19, influenza, pneumonia and pertussis (whooping cough). Schools can help families get off to a good start by encouraging parents to have children vaccinated prior to the start of the school year. In addition, schools may consider setting up vaccination clinics on campus to make it easier for families to get the necessary immunizations that will protect their overall health.

COVID-19

The FDA and CDC have recently recommended COVID-19 vaccination for children 6 months and older. However, only a third of children in the U.S. aged 5-11 have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Schools can help to increase vaccination rates in youth and adolescents by communicating the benefits of vaccinating children in their communities.

The American Lung Association is closely following reports issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and will help relay important public health information provided by the agency. We encourage you to access guidance for schools to help plan, prepare and respond to COVID-19.
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Top 5 Ways School Staff Can Support an Asthma-friendly School

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. Here are some tips to get you off to a good start:

  • Send a welcome letter to all parents at the beginning of the school year that communicates the school’s medication policies and procedures and includes any required forms. The letter should include information on the delivery of asthma treatments (i.e. metered-dose inhaler with a valved holding chamber). 
  • Set up an information table at Back to School Night and have a staff person available to answer questions. If your event will be held virtually, provide a FAQ section to address common questions and concerns as well as links to resources for additional information.
  • Have an  Asthma Action Plan on file for each student with asthma. The American Lung Association’s Asthma Action Plan for Home and Schools was updated to include vaccinations and new treatment options.
  • Ensure immediate access to asthma medication by:
    • Using our Student Readiness Assessment Tool to help you identify a student's readiness to self-carry and administer their quick-relief inhaler. 
    • Establish a stock asthma medication program in your school by adopting a stock bronchodilator policy to provide immediate access to quick-relief asthma medication to students with asthma. 
    • For schools that administer nebulized albuterol, CDC recommends using precautions as nebulizers could be a potential risk for the transmission of SARS-CoV-2. It is recommended that students switch to metered-dose inhalers with a dedicated valved holding chamber (spacer). If MDI with spacer is not possible, designated school health staff should wear personal protective equipment, isolate the student while using the nebulizer to a closed room (preferably with ventilation to the outdoors), and maintain a safe distance (6 feet or greater) , while still monitoring the student receiving the treatment. Proper cleaning and disinfecting of the equipment and room should be completed at the end of each treatment.

Poor indoor air quality can affect the health of students and staff. Many indoor air pollutants can cause asthma symptoms. Help keep your students safe by reducing or eliminating IAQ problems in the classroom by reducing or eliminating asthma triggers (e.g., mold, pet dander, air fresheners, cleaning chemicals), improving ventilation and air filtration, and using asthma-friendly cleaning practices. Download the American Lung Association’s Indoor Air Quality in Schools Guide for practical guidance schools can use to improve air quality.

Learn more about asthma and prevent asthma emergencies with Asthma Basics, a free online course. Schools can play an active role in educating students about asthma by preparing designated school personnel to facilitate an asthma education program such as Open Airways For Schools® and Kickin’ Asthma. Find more information on providing asthma education to school personnel, parents and students in the Asthma Friendly Schools Initiative Toolkit.

Staying active benefits all students but may be daunting for students with asthma or their caregivers. Providing asthma education to Physical Education instructors or coaches, managing physical activity and offering modifications to activity when needed can keep students with asthma in the game.

Schools can provide a healthy school environment by enacting a tobacco-free campus policy that includes e-cigarettes. For students that are caught smoking or vaping on campus, schools can provide an intervention programs (such as INDEPTH) to educate students about the dangers of tobacco and tobacco cessation programs to help young people.

Page last updated: November 17, 2022

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