Controlling a child’s asthma symptoms is a community effort. With an estimated 1 in 10 children suffering from asthma, parents, caregivers, and schools must work together to educate, treat, and prevent asthma flare-ups.
The first step is having a clear and comprehensive asthma action plan that you can share with your child’s school or daycare. This post will help you make an asthma action plan for your child’s asthma so their caregivers have the tools, knowledge, and resources to treat them when you are not around.
Why Do Schools Need an Asthma Action Plan?
In India, 10 to 15% of children who attend school have asthma. In the USA, 50% of asthmatic children suffered an asthma attack in 2016.
Consider this: your child spends between six to seven hours of their day at school in someone else’s care. Schools should educate and train teachers to act fast at the onset of asthma symptoms or an asthma attack. Here’s why parents need to ensure their child’s school is equipped with an asthma action plan:
Asthma attacks require swift action
An asthma attack always requires medical attention. By educating the right people and being prepared for asthma attacks, you can minimize the severity of your child's asthma attacks and keep your kids safe at school. A minor asthma attack can usually be treated with the rescue inhaler on hand at school. An asthma attack that goes unnoticed can be life-threatening, so having an asthma action plan in place is crucial.
A child may be unable to explain their asthma symptoms
A child may not be able to communicate that they are struggling with their asthma. Teachers must be able to recognize asthma symptoms and know how to follow an asthma action plan accordingly. Here are four of the most common asthma symptoms:
- Shortness of breath
Air pollution can increase the chance of an asthma attack
There’s a correlation between increased air pollution levels and asthma attacks at school. Toxic air levels forced more than 430 schools in Bangkok to close in January 2019 for two days. The school district said it was the best way to protect students’ health. Cancelling school helped decrease local traffic pollution and drones were used to spray a liquid substance over the city to try to disperse the hazardous particulate matter.
In India, Delhi’s Chief Minister has described the city as a gas chamber. In 2017, the megacity experienced a public health emergency when toxic levels of particulate matter filled the air. Around 30 schools in Delhi have since created clubs to educate students and teachers about asthma and how to respond to symptoms.
Asthma issues can impact a child’s learning capabilities
Asthma is the reason behind more than 13 million school absences a year. The Environmental Protection Agency says children with uncontrolled asthma tend to have poorer academic performance due to their struggles with the disease. Keeping your child's asthma under wraps is essential for them to do well in school, and an asthma action plan for school is one key component in asthma management.
What Can You Do To Protect Your Child From An Asthma Attack At School?
A comprehensive asthma action plan involving parents, caregivers, and schools is the best way to keep a child’s asthma in check and prevent asthma flare-ups. Asthma can’t be cured, but it can be controlled. Here are the ways school districts can take a proactive approach to asthma care:
- Educate and train school staff and students. Find out what your child’s school does to train their teachers and staff to help asthmatic children. The Lung Care Foundation recommends all school staff and parents with asthmatic children take an asthma education course. The Lung Care Foundation also suggests having asthma buddies in the classroom who can alert an adult about a potential asthma attack.
- Form an asthma task force. A school can develop an asthma task force to make sure asthmatic children are covered in the classroom, playground, and field trips. An asthma task force makes sure there is always an emergency asthma action plan in place. The group can also help motivate a school district to improve environmental asthma triggers such as building air flow, humidity levels, and mold issues.
- Invest in healthy school buildings. We know air quality can exacerbate asthma symptoms. Caregivers can help their child’s school identify if the school environment is playing a role in their child’s asthma flare-ups. The EPA created an app to help schools assess indoor air quality and improve it, which you can find here.
- Pay attention to air quality levels in your home and around town. Understanding air quality levels in your area will help you make healthy choices for your asthmatic. An air quality monitor can help you know when to open windows, when to close them, and when to avoid exercising or playing outdoors so you can be sure air pollution isn't creating or exacerbating your child's asthma symptoms.
How To Make a Personalized Asthma Action Plan for School
An asthma action plan is a comprehensive guide you can give your child’s caregivers, covering symptoms, triggers, emergency response directions, medication, and emergency contact information.
Provide an asthma action sheet for the nurse, teacher, and caregiver. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America has also created a fill-in, written asthma action plan for your use, which you can find here (it's free, too!).
Every child is different, so before you fill out an asthma action plan, consult with your pediatrician about the best steps for your school to make if your child has an asthma flare-up. Your child should also demonstrate how they use their inhaler in front of the school nurse and teacher, and be sure to label the inhaler with your child's name.
You may choose to include a peak flow meter with your child’s medication bag. A peak flow meter can help your child’s caregiver accurately assess the severity of their asthma symptoms. Put the inhaler, peak flow meter, and asthma action plan in a clear Ziploc bag for organization and efficiency.