Children with asthma often have symptoms at school, so it is very important to get the school involved in caring for your child's asthma. This is true even if your child has only a mild case of asthma or if he or she does not need to take asthma medicines while at school.
Most schools have several children with asthma, so school nurses and many teachers are very familiar with helping children with asthma. Still, it is important to take steps to ensure that your child gets adequate attention and that all relevant school personnel are familiar with what is needed to help your child.
You can look at this in two ways: there are things you need to do to prevent your child from having an asthma attack at school, and there are things you need to do to make sure that your child gets the right treatment if an asthma attack occurs at school.
What can I do to prevent my child from having an asthma attack at school?
The most important thing is to talk to your child and, depending on how old he or she is, explain as much about the disease that your child will understand. Ideally, your child should also:
- Keep track of when it is time to take the medicine
- Know how to use the inhaler properly
School officials should know about your child's asthma, including:
- How severe it is
- What the triggers are
- What medications to use and how to properly give them
- What to do in case of an asthma attack
All of these things should be written up and a list should be distributed to every school official who may be caring for your child. If possible, you should try to arrange a meeting with the school officials and explain the triggers, severity, symptoms, and treatment of your child's asthma.
You should look at your child's classroom and other areas where he or she goes in school to see if there are any triggers. If you identify possible triggers for your child's asthma (dust mites and dust are common triggers in a classroom), you should work with the teacher to reduce your child's exposure to these triggers.
It is very important to provide the school nurse with all of your child's asthma medicines and the proper instructions. Remember that for some medicines, like inhalers, there is often no way to tell whether or not the inhaler still has medicine. You need to keep track of this and replace the medicines at school on a regular basis. Some of the newer inhaler devices have dose counters, and you will be able to tell when the medication needs to be refilled. Be sure to check every few months that the school is taking care of your child's asthma and that everyone involved understands your child's condition.
Here is a list of people at school who must be involved:
- Class teacher—This is the adult who is most likely to be around if your child has an asthma attack at school. The more the class teacher knows and the more vigilant he or she is, the better the chances that your child will be properly helped. Sometimes, kids who have difficulty breathing do not perform as well in school, even though they do not have asthma attacks. The class teacher should look out for this.
- School nurse—You must talk to the school nurse and get an idea of what the school policies are. If your school shares a school nurse with other schools, make an appointment to see the nurse when she is in the school and find out who will be in charge when the nurse is not around.
- Art teacher, music teacher, or any other teacher who regularly spends time with your child.
- Physical education (PE) teacher—The PE teacher has a special responsibility. In addition to spending time with your child like other teachers, the PE teacher should keep an extra eye on your child when he or she is exercising, since exercise can trigger asthma. Also, you should make sure that your child is not being left out because he or she has asthma. The PE teacher should encourage your child to participate as long as the asthma is under control.
- Office staff, principal
- Counselor—This is an important person to talk to, especially if your child has other problems, such as learning problems or problems dealing with other kids.
- Substitute teachers—You should try to talk to substitute teachers yourself. The regular teachers should also inform substitute teachers about your child's condition. This is where a written set of instructions from you can be particularly valuable.
In addition to the above, the more teachers and other adults at school who know about your child's asthma, the better. Your child could have an asthma attack while at lunch or in the hallway; these are places where the class teacher may not be present.
What emergency instructions should I give the school?
They should have a clear set of instructions (your care provider can help with this) what symptoms they should look out for, and what treatment they should give. The school should have a clear idea of when to call your care provider and when to call 911. You should make sure that the instruction sheet you hand out to all school officials has your doctor's phone number, your preferred hospital (emergency room), as well as contact numbers for you, other guardians for the child, and a trusted friend.
- American Lung Association. Asthma-Friendly Schools Initiative Accessed 1/30/2014.
- National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Managing Asthma: A Guide for Schools Accessed 1/30/2014.
- National Association of School Nurses. Asthma Online Toolkit Accessed 1/30/2014.
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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 12/6/2013…#9569