Breathing can be difficult for the 6.1 million children living with asthma in the U.S. In an average classroom size of 30, three of those children would have asthma. As one of the main illness-related reasons students miss school, asthma accounts for nearly 14 million lost school days a year. While there is no cure for asthma, according to the American Lung Association this chronic lung disease can be managed and treated allowing for children to lead an active, healthy life.
“Asthma is a serious lung disease, but with proper treatment and an action plan, it can be managed, getting children back into the classroom and out on the playground,” said Traci Gonzales, pediatric nurse practitioner and American Lung Association volunteer spokesperson. “Especially with summer break disrupting schedules and the fall allergy season just around the corner, now is the time to create or update an Asthma Action Plan for your child and ensure they are using long-term control medications if prescribed.”
As families prepare for kids to head back to school, the American Lung Association in partnership with Philips encourages parents to include asthma management in the back-to-school checklist, offering the following tips:
- Use your child’s yearly check-up or school physicals to create or revise an Asthma Action Plan. This is an excellent time to assess asthma control, adjust medicines as necessary, and get prescriptions for back-up medications. The beginning of the school year is also an important time to share not only the updated Asthma Action Plan, but to also ensure the school nurse, coaches, after-school program staff and other individuals helping with the child’s care know how to avoid asthma triggers and what to do in case of an emergency.
- Proper use of effective medicines can relieve asthma symptoms and cut the risk of asthma episodes. Parents should ensure their children know how to use their asthma medication correctly. Students are encouraged to demonstrate using their inhalers, valved holding chambers or spacers, or nebulizer with their asthma care provider at each visit, and replace these pieces of equipment at least annually.
- If your child has fall allergies, start allergy medication early as a preventative measure which will make asthma symptoms less likely to occur.
- For a child who is struggling to breathe, the trip from the classroom or playground to the school health room for medication can be perilously far. All 50 states have laws that allow children to self-carry and use their asthma inhalers at school. The Self-Carry Assessment Tool will help determine if the child is ready to carry and self-administer their asthma medication.
- Air pollution at home and in classrooms affect how children learn and can harm their growing lungs. Many unhealthy indoor air problems are simple and inexpensive to fix by simply keeping allergens and sources of pollution out of the home. In addition, programs that make school campuses and multi-unit housing tobacco-free, use of air purifiers to capture potential triggers and bus anti-idling programs can help reduce asthma episodes and keep kids healthy.
“Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a team to support a child living with asthma,” Gonzales said. “I recommend that parents of children living with asthma not only create an asthma management plan with their primary care provider but also meet with the school nurse and the adults in their child’s life so that everyone is prepared when and if any asthma symptoms arise.”
Gonzales recommends that parents of children living with asthma recruit a team – the school nurse, teachers, coaches, babysitters and adults leading after-school activities – to recognize and treat asthma symptoms right when they start.
It’s important that we work together to continually educate and empower parents on how best to monitor and manage their child’s asthma,” said Linda Trevenen, Respiratory Drug Delivery Business Leader at Philips. “Properly managing a child’s air quality and environment while following a physician prescribed treatment plan can truly transform a child’s life, allowing them to perform better in school, build confidence in sports and simply get outside and play.”
For more information, and to download your own copy of the American Lung Association’s “Back To School Checklist” visit Lung.org/back-to-school. The American Lung Association also offers a number of video tutorials demonstrating proper use of asthma medicines, peak flow meters and resources for breathing and managing asthma symptoms.