Asthma is incredibly common among American children, affecting as many as 6 million kids younger than age 18. It’s also one of the most common reasons for missing school.
In fact, the average child with asthma misses 14 days of school each school year due to asthma and related health issues. That’s a lot of missed educational time!
When your child is at home for summer, it can be easier to keep a close eye on his or her health, watching for any common symptoms of asthma and avoiding triggers. As school resumes, though, you may wonder how to keep your child in good health—and asthma flare up-free.
The good news is: A little bit of advanced planning can help! Consider the following steps part of your back-to-school preparation for this school year.
A Back-to-School Asthma Management Plan
Because asthma often starts in early childhood, many kids have been diagnosed with the condition before age 5, which is the normal age to start kindergarten. Knowing what to do after the diagnosis is important.
Here are a few key steps to help your child manage asthma in a school setting:
- Have a back-to-school checkup. This isn’t an at-school part of the plan, but it’s important. Meeting with your child’s pediatrician or another medical provider can help you get a good status update on your child’s health before school starts, including whether his or her current asthma treatment plan is working effectively or if tweaks are needed.
- Talk with the school nurse. After meeting with your child’s provider, share what you learned with the nurse at school. Talk through what commonly triggers your child’s asthma, as well as the treatment and management plan your child follows. Make sure to clearly emphasize what medications will be with your child at school in case of an asthma attack and find out where they will be located, if they aren’t in your child’s possession.
- Share the same info with teachers and other staff. Anyone who regularly interacts with your child at school should be informed about what needs to be done in the case of an asthma attack. They need full knowledge of your child’s Asthma Action Plan. This includes whether your child will have quick-relief medications in his or her possession, or where that medication should be stored.
- Ensure your child is familiar with the symptoms of an attack. This may seem like common sense, but in young children especially, this information may not be well-understood. If your little one has been diagnosed with asthma, make sure he or she knows the common symptoms, such as difficulty in breathing, wheezing, coughing, or even a heartbeat that speeds up, and what they feel like. Then talk through what your child should do if he or she experiences them, including who to ask for help and how to access intervention medications.
- Help your child avoid common triggers. Asthma triggers can vary from child to child, so it’s important to know what commonly causes your child’s asthma flare-ups. This can include certain weather conditions, environmental factors like pollen, mold, or dust mites, and in some cases, exercise. Knowing the triggers is step one in preventing them or limiting their effects, particularly when it comes to physical activity. If exercise is a trigger, your child’s pediatrician may recommend a medication to take prior to physical activity.
- Make sure your child takes meds as prescribed. Your child’s medical provider will recommend a treatment strategy that’s personalized for your child’s needs. It may include a combination of medications, including both quick-relief meds for the quick relief of asthma symptoms during an attack and control meds to keep attacks from happening in the first place. To manage your child’s asthma, it’s important that these meds be taken as prescribed. Quick-relief meds, which usually come in the form of an inhaler, are the type that should be kept at school and/or in your child’s possession.
- Ensure your child knows how to use his or her inhaler. This probably seems logical, but it’s vitally important and potentially lifesaving. Talk your child through how to use an inhaler for quick relief of asthma symptoms. Watch demonstration videos together or access other resources to make sure the inhaler can be used properly if and when it is needed.