Asthma in Schools: The Basics for Parents

Parents may feel concerned about sending their child with asthma to school. Will they be safe? What will my child do if they have symptoms? How will the school respond if my child is having asthma symptoms? The American Lung Association provides guidance to schools to put protective policies and practices into place so children with asthma can be safe and healthy while at school. During the 2020-2021 school year, parents are taking extra precautions to ensure that their children will be safe. The American Lung Association is here to help parents get prepared for this school year.

A few important tips to keep in mind for this school year are to:

Parents can help children stay in good control of their asthma by visiting with their child’s healthcare provider prior to the start of the school year. During the visit:

  • Discuss your child’s asthma severity and assess the risk of attending in-person classes during coronavirus. Also, discuss what steps you should take if you suspect that your child has been exposed to COVID-19.
  • Review your child's asthma treatment plan. Make sure you and your child can recognize symptoms, when to take medicines, and how much medicine to take in each zone.
  • Review your child’s inhalation technique with the healthcare provider to ensure that they are using their asthma medicines properly. If you child uses a nebulizer, discuss the risks of exposure to COVID-19 during use and prevention strategies.
  • Ask the healthcare provider for an extra quick-relief inhaler with a valved-holding chamber/spacer – one to keep on them and one to keep as back-up medicine at school.
  • If your child has fall allergies, ask their doctor when they should get started with their allergy medicines. Getting started early can prevent asthma symptoms.
  • Ask about getting a flu shot.

For a child who is struggling to breathe, the trip from the classroom or playground to the school health room can be dangerously far. Take these precautions to make sure your child has access to their quick-relief inhaler.

  • Have your child take the Student Readiness Assessment Tool with their healthcare provider or school nurse to determine if your child is ready to carry and use a quick-relief inhaler on their own during the school day.
  • Have your child demonstrate using their inhalers (with a valved-holding chamber or spacer) or nebulizer with their asthma care provider at each visit to ensure they are taking their medication correctly.
  • For a refresher, visit the Asthma Patient Resources and Videos page to watch our video tutorials demonstrating proper use of asthma medicines, peak flow meters, as well as resources for breathing and managing symptoms. 

It's important to ensure your child, teachers, school counselors and coaches are prepared for the school year. When attending to school physicals and check-ups, make sure to:

  • Share your child's updated Asthma Action Plan, and back-up medications with your child's full care team.
  • Discuss the school’s asthma management policies and practices with the designated school health personnel to be sure you understand how asthma medicines are stored, accessed, and the steps the school takes if your child has symptoms while at school.  

Is Your Child's School Asthma-Friendly?

Accounting for nearly 14 million lost school days each year, asthma is one of the main illness-related reasons that students miss school. From the classroom to your home, indoor air pollution from dust, fragrances, mold or even the classroom hamster can affect how children learn and harm their growing lungs.

  • Encourage your school to adopt programs designed to maintain good indoor air quality and healthy environments in classrooms by learning the signs of unhealthy air, creating a tobacco-free campus, and adopting a school bus anti-idling program.
  • Encourage your school to become asthma friendly.

How's the air at home?

In addition to your school, your home environment is equally important to keep asthma triggers and symptoms at bay.  

  • Keep allergens – including secondhand smoke – and sources of pollution out of your home and ensure your home has proper ventilation.
  • Learn more about healthy air at home and how pollution can hurt your child's lungs.

Page last updated: September 11, 2020

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