Asthma action plan: Start the school year off safely

Back-to-school time usually coincides with one of the worst months of the year for asthma: September. Irritants such as ragweed pollen, mold, dust and respiratory infections are at higher levels during this time. Parents and guardians should make sure to understand and use the asthma action plan as given by your child’s pediatric pulmonologist or asthma specialist.

What is an asthma action plan?

An asthma action plan is an asthma care plan developed by physicians to help children with asthma take control of their condition. This written plan gives information and instructions on managing asthma based on a child’s current symptoms, if any. Asthma action plans are organized with the colors of traffic lights to help families understand which medicines, dosage amounts and actions to take based on symptoms:

  • Green: Green is for minimal or no symptoms. Your child should take their controller medicine as prescribed.
  • Yellow: This is a caution stage, a heightened level of the green state. This stage is for times when your child is exposed to an asthma trigger or has the first signs of a cold or respiratory infection, such as wheezing, a tight chest or coughing at night. This stage includes controller medicines and a rescue medicine, commonly albuterol, as instructed by your asthma specialist.
  • Red: This is considered a “danger” stage, where asthma worsens quickly. In this stage, medicines may not be working, your child may be breathing hard and fast, and may have trouble speaking. This stage is when your child needs immediate medical attention from your doctor. You should phone your asthma specialist on call, who will give you instructions for immediate action for this step.

The plan also provides important information for what to do in certain situations, such as before exercise or physical play.

Asthma action plans — At home and school

Scheduling an appointment with your child’s pediatric pulmonologist before school starts can help you have an updated action plan. It’s important to keep a copy of your child’s action plan for yourself and to give one to your child’s school. School nurses or staff cannot give children rescue medications without an asthma action plan on file.

Norton Children’s Pulmonology, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine

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Talking with your child’s teacher, the school nurse and/or other school staff such as bus drivers, coaches or physical education (PE) instructors about your child’s asthma triggers and symptoms and their action plan can be key to helping your child manage their condition while at school. If staff can help limit your child’s exposure to triggers, it can help prevent asthma events.

Other things parents and guardians can do:

  • Provide unopened inhaler and spacer to your child’s school.
  • Help your child understand when to go to a teacher or staff about their condition. Children may be timid about asking for help; empowering them can help them be more confident should they need help.
  • If your child has issues participating in activities, talk to your child’s pulmonologist.

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