The school environment is a regular setting in the lives of many children nationwide. Students and school staff are exposed to a wide variety of possible asthma triggers that can negatively impact those diagnosed with asthma.
The American Lung Association’s Asthma-Friendly Schools Initiative™ provides a comprehensive approach to asthma management in schools. Check out these resources from the Asthma-Friendly Schools Initiative Toolkit for additional information on asthma policy in schools:
- Tip sheet: Policies and Legislative Issues Affecting Asthma in Schools
- Tip sheet: Long-term Policy Change
- AFSI Webinar Series on School Policy Part #1 and Part #2
- Letter to the Editor Template – Support Funding for Asthma Programs
How does your state rank on school health policies and practices? Visit the School Health Profiles to learn more.
Asthma management in schools can be addressed through a two-pronged approach: creating a comprehensive asthma management plan and establishing an environmental assessment plan. The guidance provided below reflect the strategies agreed upon in the Joint Statement for Improving Asthma Management in Schools, supported by school and health-based national organizations collaborating to ensure a healthy learning environment for all students. Here are proven strategies and accompanying tools that can help your school become asthma-friendly.
Create an Asthma Management Plan
All school systems should adopt and implement a comprehensive plan for the management of asthma that is based on current research and best practices.
For more detail on what is included in a comprehensive plan, see the CDC's Strategies for Addressing Asthma within a Coordinated School Health Program. Many schools have created a wide-ranging Wellness Policy in which asthma-specific policies can be incorporated.
Policy vs. protocol for tracking students with asthma.
Although many schools are able to easily adopt asthma policy, other schools find it easier to incorporate school practices or protocols instead to help support an asthma-friendly school environment. For example, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools has created a tracking form called the Asthma Chronic Illness List(ACIL), with an accompanying ACIL Instructions sheet, which helps to track the absences, asthma action plan data, asthma emergencies and other pertinent information of all students with asthma.
- Obtain and ensure the use of Asthma Action Plans for all students with asthma.
- Establish standard emergency protocols.
- Educate all school personnel (especially health personnel, physical educators and coaches) about asthma, including how to respond in an emergency.
- Provide a full-time registered nurse in every school, every day, all day.
- Ensure students with asthma have access to quick relief medications.
- All 50 states have laws permitting students to self-carry their quick-relief medications. However, each state has different requirements that can be based on a student’s age, medication needs and their maturity to self-carry and self-administer. The school should inform parents of the law along with any school district policies or required paperwork, such as a medication release form.
- Authorization for administration of inhaled asthma medication
- Ensure that students whose asthma is not well controlled are provided self management education and case management.
Support an Asthma-Friendly School Environment
All school systems should adopt and implement an environmental assessment and management plan.
Learn more about EPA school siting guidelines.
- Develop and implement indoor air quality management plans that address dampness problems, mold contamination, maintenance and repairs, cleaning, integrated pest management and other factors as identified in the EPA’s Indoor Air Quality Tools for Schools.
- Require schools, grounds, facilities, vehicles, and sponsored events to be 100% tobacco-free.
- Establish a protocol to minimize students’ exposure to outdoor air pollutants on days with unhealthy levels of air pollution.
- Air Quality Index fact sheet
- Bus Idling policy sample
- Outdoor exposure to air pollution policy
- General idling policy sample
- American Lung Association’s policy statement on school sites
The American Lung Association recognizes that the science shows that the air along busy highways, including up to at least 500 meters on either side, often has pollution levels that are much higher than are safe for children or adults to breathe, whether or not they have asthma. Some have suggested adopting policies to require that new schools be built far away from busy highways in an effort to protect children from this pollution. However, the Lung Association instead supports cleaning up the sources of the pollution as the best approach to reducing childhood exposure. Cleaning up cars, trucks, buses, and other highway sources of air pollution would help protect the children in every school, including those located near busy highways.
Page last updated: April 8, 2020