Asthma: Dealing with Your Child's School
If your child has asthma, you probably worry about how he or she copes with asthma at school. Having this disease can have a big impact on your child’s grades and learning—in fact, asthma is one of the chief causes of school absences. Research shows that informed, supportive teachers and staff can play a big role in helping students manage their asthma.
The CDC has identified six key strategies that teachers and staff can use to help children with asthma thrive at school. Not every strategy is appropriate or practical for every school situation. In general, however, the more strategies used, the better. You can help by encouraging your child’s school to use these strategies:
Asthma education for all. Ideally, everyone from teachers and principals to cafeteria staff and bus drivers should know the basics about asthma. They should also be taught how to respond to an asthma emergency. Basic information about asthma should be woven into the standard health curriculum for all students.
School health services. You, your child, and your child’s doctor should work together to develop an asthma action plan. It should cover issues such as asthma triggers and medications, peak-flow and symptom monitoring, and emergency procedures when to call the parent, when to call a doctor, and when to call 911. Give a written copy of this plan to the school. Make sure your child’s teachers, the school nurse, and other relevant staff members have the plan and understand what it means. Be sure appropriate staff members know how to administer emergency reliever medications and that they all know where the child’s medication is stored.
Healthy air quality. Tobacco use should be banned at all times on school property. Good pest control practices can help control cockroaches and other allergy-causing pests. During any construction or remodeling of the school, steps should be taken to reduce the amount of dust and debris in the air.
Safe physical activities. All children need exercise, and a child with asthma should be encouraged to take part in physical activities like everyone else. In some cases, the activity may need to be modified to make sure it’s safe and appropriate. Your child should also have ready access to any medications that might be needed before or during exercise.
A spirit of cooperation. The school should inform you about any steps being taken to help reduce asthma problems. You, in turn, need to keep the school updated about any changes in your child’s asthma action plan. When appropriate, you and the school may want to work with counselors, asthma educators, daycare providers, and others to make sure your child's condition is well-managed and interferes with school and play as little as possible.
Community support. The CDC has found that asthma-friendly schools are most effective when they have a strong support system. If your child’s school is failing to make the grade, it may be because teachers and staff aren’t getting the facts and support they need.
So speak up, offer suggestions, and share resources. Ultimately, you all want to help your child thrive.
Children who have their asthma needs met are free to work to their full potential. Good asthma control at school can improve your child’s alertness and stamina. Fewer symptoms also mean fewer restrictions on fun school activities, such as recess, sports, and field trips. For you, just knowing that the school is prepared to handle an asthma emergency means greater peace of mind. For your child’s teacher, less disruption in class because of asthma problems means everyone has more time and energy for learning. Everyone wins!