Asthma flare-ups are the main reason that kids with asthma miss school. And they miss a lot — in the U.S., more than 13 million schooldays are missed each year because of asthma, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
But well-managed asthma is far less likely to result in a sick day. When kids' asthma is under control, they have far fewer flare-ups.
How Can I Keep My Child Healthy for School?
The first step is to work with your doctor to create a written asthma action plan that will tell you what medicines your child needs to take, how they should be taken, what triggers to avoid, and more. Make sure to give the school staff a copy of the asthma action plan.
At the start of each school year, meet with your child's teacher and other school staff to discuss the plan. You should talk about:
- the history of your child's asthma
- whether your child can manage asthma independently
- how to reach you and your child's doctor
- plans for handling treatment during any off-site activities, such as field trips
- what the school's rules are for kids old enough to handle asthma care (can kids keep an inhaler on hand or do they have to go the health office to use it?)
- who handles asthma care if your child isn't old enough to take care of monitoring and treatment. For example, someone on the school's staff should know how to work an inhaler and/or peak flow meter, if your child uses one. Ideally, a health professional at the school will do this. If not, find out who will.
A supportive school environment that helps kids take charge of their own care is important. Without it, kids might avoid taking their medicines. Encourage the school's staff to help your child settle into a comfortable routine.
How Can We Handle Asthma Flare-Ups at School?
Ideally, quick-relief medicine (also called rescue or fast-acting medicine) should always be readily available to kids. For kids who aren't old enough to take the medicine on their own, this means that the teacher will have it in the classroom. And if not, it will be readily available (not under lock and key) in the school nurse's office.
Once kids are old enough to know how and when to take their medicine, they should carry it at all times, if the school allows. Your doctor can help you decide when your child is responsible for the medicine.
Talk to school officials and find out what they allow. Stress the importance of immediate treatment during an asthma flare-up. They might let your child take the medicine on his or her own, but might ask you to sign an "asthma contract." This might say that you give permission for your child to take medicine and, if needed, who can give it to your child.
How Can We Deal With Asthma Triggers at School?
Part of avoiding flare-ups is to avoid triggers like dust mites and chalk dust. Let the school staff know your child's triggers. You also might:
- Ask teachers to use "dustless" chalk or dry-erase boards.
- Ask that any caged pets be kept out of your child's classroom.
- Ask the staff to avoid using perfumed cleaning products or soaps.
- Request the use of air conditioners and dehumidifiers.
- Make sure that the school is vacuumed and dusted regularly, that it's routinely treated by a pest control company, and that it's completely smoke-free.
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