Back-to-school time has arrived. If your child has asthma, they need more than just a new backpack and school supplies. Careful preparation for the transition back to school, detailed in an asthma action plan, will help everyone breathe easier.
A Look at the Numbers
The American Lung Association estimates that 6.1 million children in the United States have asthma. While it is one of the most common childhood maladies, asthma can be associated with severe symptoms and is a major cause of missed school days. One-third of all hospitalizations for children under age 15 years are due to asthma.
Know Asthma Symptoms and Triggers
Given the potential consequences, it’s important that you, your child’s teacher, and other school personnel are able to recognize asthma symptoms and asthma triggers. Common triggers that increase asthma symptoms include upper respiratory infections and other illnesses, exposure to allergens and cigarette smoke, and exercise.
Create an Asthma Action Plan
Children with asthma should see their health-care provider at least yearly to monitor how well their asthma is controlled and to create an asthma action plan for families and schools to follow. This allows your child to fully participate in school and related activities.
The asthma action plan is specific to an individual child and should indicate:
- Maintenance or preventive medications your child takes.
- A plan to follow when your child is ill, having asthma symptoms, or has been exposed to a likely trigger.
The visit with your child’s health-care provider is also a time to refill medications so they are readily available both at home and at school. Some older children may be permitted to carry and self-administer their medications. Make sure both you and your child understand how to use the different types of inhalers and spacers.
Finally, communicate with your child’s school nurse, teachers, coaches, after school program staff as needed to ensure consistency.
A Reminder About the Flu Shot
The return to school also coincides with the annual influenza vaccination campaign. The flu shot is the single best way to prevent influenza and is highly recommended for anyone with asthma as having asthma increases the risk for complications of the flu. In addition, it is recommended that children age 12 and older receive the COVID-19 vaccine.