In addition to the routine back-to-school preparation, parents and caregivers of children with asthma have a bit of extra planning to do. In the weeks after school starts, there’s a peak in asthma exacerbations (attacks), but with adequate preparation, asthma can be controlled.
As a parent or caregiver, you are your child’s best advocate. Here are some tips to help control your child’s asthma when they head back to school:
- If on a daily controller medication (inhaled corticosteroid), make sure your child takes it every day to reduce inflammation in the airway. These medications take some time to work effectively so you don’t want to wait until your child has a flare-up to start using it.
- Schedule a follow-up with your child’s doctor to get an updated Asthma Action Plan. Give a copy to the school and keep a copy for yourself. The Asthma Action Plan will help the school provide proper care for your child. The nurse cannot give your child any rescue medication (albuterol) without this form. It answers important questions like:
- Is the albuterol taken as needed for symptoms?
- Does your child take their medication before exercise (PE/recess)?
- Can your child carry their own inhaler, or do they need to go to the school clinic to get the medicine?
- How much medication should be given and when should it be given?
- Know your child’s triggers and share this information with the school. Decreasing exposure to triggers can help decrease asthma symptoms and prevent exacerbations. Each child is an individual and may have different triggers. Here are a few common ones:
- Colds and infections – This is the number one trigger for children with asthma. Colds and infections are difficult to prevent, but good handwashing is one way to help.
- Strong odors and sprays – Cleaning products, perfumes, air fresheners or bug sprays/insecticides
- Exercise – The Asthma Action Plan can specify that medication is required prior to PE or recess, if your child’s doctor feels this is necessary.
- Weather – Extreme hot or cold
- Emotions – Anxiety, laughter, crying
- Allergens – Pollen, mold, dust or pet dander
- Communication is the key to successfully managing asthma at school.
- Have a conversation with your child’s teachers, so they can recognize your child’s asthma symptoms and discuss when they should be sent to the school clinic.
- Meet with the school nurse to review the Asthma Action Plan.
- Meet with any other employees that may be a caregiver to your child including bus drivers, coaches and PE teachers. They should all be instructed on triggers, symptoms and treatment.
- Get your child their flu shot.
Other things to think about:
- Provide ways for your child and/or school to contact you. Make sure all numbers are up to date.
- Have you provided an unopened inhaler and a spacer to the school?
- If your child is carrying their own inhaler and spacer, talk to them about where to keep it and how to use it.
- Talk to your child about when to go to teacher for asthma. Children may be nervous or insecure about approaching their teacher.
- If your child’s symptoms are preventing them from participating in activities, call your doctor to make an appointment. Working together with your doctor to find the right medications, your child should be able to participate in PE, sports and all other physical activity.
An active, healthy life is a goal for all children with asthma!
Cathy Blair-Perrine, nurse, UCAN community asthma program
Our You Can Control Asthma Now (UCAN) program brings together a team of specialists to help children with asthma gain control of symptoms and live active, healthy lives.