You won’t always be around to help your child if his asthma flares, especially if it happens at school. So it’s important to help him learn how to handle his condition and know the people he can turn to for help.
Most schools have several students with asthma. Many classroom teachers -- and certainly school nurses -- know how to help kids with the condition. Still, you can take steps to notify your child’s school and make sure that all the key people have what it takes to help him if he needs it.
How Can I Prevent Asthma Problems for My Child at School?
The most important thing is to talk to your child and explain to him as much about asthma as he can understand at his age. Ideally, he should be able to keep track of when it's time to take his medicine and know how to use an inhaler.
You should also brief school officials on the details of your child’s asthma. They should know how severe his condition is, his triggers, which medications he needs and how to give them, and what to do in case of an asthma attack.
Your child should have an asthma action plan that spells out the specific steps for managing his condition. Give a copy of the plan to every school official who may care for your child. You may want to schedule a conference with teachers and other school officials to go over the plan and any other details they should know.
Also, look around your child's classroom and other areas he might go at the school to see if there are any known allergy or asthma triggers. If you are aware of any, like dust mites or dust, you should work with the teacher to see if the school can reduce them.
Also, it is very important to give the school nurse all the medicines that your child might need during school hours, along with instructions for giving them. Remember that for some inhalers, there’s often no way to tell if the device still has medicine in it or not. You will need to keep track of the date when you send the inhaler and replace the medicines at school regularly.
Who Should Manage My Child's Asthma at School?
The more teachers and other adults at school who know about your child's asthma, the better. He could have an asthma attack in art or music class, in the hallway, or another area where his classroom teacher isn’t around. So make sure a few different adults know how to help:
- Classroom teacher. This is the person who is most likely to be around if your child has an asthma attack at school. The more she knows and the more vigilant she is, the better the chance that your child will get the care he needs. Sometimes, kids who have trouble breathing don’t do as well in school, even though they don’t have asthma attacks. The teacher should be aware that your child’s symptoms may affect his performance.
- School nurse. She can give you an idea of what the school policies are for medications and other types of care. If your school shares a nurse with other schools, make an appointment to see her when she’s on campus, and find out who will be in charge when she’s not around.
- Other teachers. Talk with the art teacher, music teacher, or any other person who regularly spends time with your child.
- PE teacher. In addition to spending time with your child like other teachers, the PE teacher should keep an extra eye on your child when he’s exercising, since that can trigger asthma. Also, make sure that your child won’t be left out because of his condition. The PE teacher should encourage him to participate as long as his symptoms are under control.
- Office staff and school principal.
- Counselor. This is an important person to talk to, especially if your child has other issues, such as learning problems or trouble dealing with other kids.
- Substitute teachers. You won’t always know when there will be a sub, but make sure the regular teacher knows to inform them about your child's asthma. That’s why it helps to keep a copy of the asthma action plan in the classroom.
- Bus driver. Be sure she gets a copy of your child’s asthma action plan.
In Case of Emergency
The asthma action plan should clearly say what to do if your child is having asthma symptoms that his inhaler can’t stop.
The school should know when to call your child’s doctor and when to call 911. Make sure the action plan has your doctor's phone number, your preferred hospital (emergency room), as well as contact numbers for you, other guardians for your child, and a trusted friend.
When Should I Send Medications to School?
Most kids can better manage their asthma symptoms if they carry and know how to use their asthma inhalers and other medications at school. At the same time, schools must follow state laws and policies about whether students can carry and use inhalers and other treatments, like epinephrine auto-injectors.
If your child’s school doesn’t usually let kids carry medicine, talk with school officials to figure out what skills he would need to show in order to make that possible. Then work with his doctor to make learning those skills a part of your child’s asthma action plan.
The doctor can also tell the school whether she recommends letting your child carry and give himself his medicine.
Can My Child Use an Inhaler at School?
Is your child mature enough to carry and give himself an inhaler and other medication at school? Consider the following questions:
- Does he want to carry and be in charge of his medications?
- Does your doctor think he’s old enough and mature enough?
- Does your child recognize when he’s having symptoms?
- Does he know the right way to use his medicine when he has symptoms?
- Can he remember to keep his inhaler and auto-injectable epinephrine with him at all times?
- Will he promise not to share medication with other students or leave it unattended?
- Does your child know to tell an adult right after he uses his medication?
You may also want to think about:
- Where and how often he’s had sudden asthma attacks before
- If there are triggers at your child’s school
- How often he’s been to the ER or hospital for asthma before
Check with school officials about the policy in the district. The goal is for all students to carry and give themselves their medications. Working with your child, his doctor, and the teacher and others, you can come up with a safe, sure way to manage your child’s asthma at school.