As summer winds down, families in Arkansas are beginning to prepare for the new school year. A new school environment can sometimes be difficult for children with asthma.
This back-to-school season, the American Lung Association highlights tips for families of children with asthma and stresses the importance of crafting a plan to properly manage asthma in a school environment.
“Before shopping for back-to-school supplies, parents of students with asthma should first consider their child’s health for the time that they spend under the supervision of school personnel and in the school environment,” said Dr. Norman H. Edelman, senior medical adviser of the American Lung Association. “They should work closely with their health care provider and school personnel before the school year begins to put a plan in place for good asthma control in the classroom.”
Asthma is one of the most common chronic childhood disorders in the nation, affecting an estimated seven million children under the age of 18. It is also one of the primary illness-related reasons that students miss school, accounting for more than 10 million lost school days each year.
The onset of a new school year also marks the beginning of the cold and flu season. Influenza poses a special health risk to children with asthma, as these children often experience more severe symptoms. The American Lung Association strongly recommends that all children — especially those with asthma — be immunized against influenza.
As part of its Asthma Friendly Schools Initiative the American Lung Association launched the Asthma-Friendly Schools Champions Awards earlier this year with support from the Environmental Protection Agency and Genentech Pharmaceuticals. The AFSI Champion Awards recognize schools that have taken positive strides to create a healthier learning environment using the strategies outlined in the Asthma-Friendly Schools Initiative.
By recognizing schools that have taken a comprehensive approach to asthma management, the Lung Association hopes to increase awareness of childhood asthma, establish a cadre of schools that can share their best practices, as well as expand the number of schools working toward an asthma-friendlier learning environment. Silver and Gold level winners are schools that have gone above and beyond to protect the health of their students, faculty and staff. Award winners will be announced in September.
In preparation for the school year ahead, the American Lung Association urges parents who have children with asthma to complete the following checklist:
• Step 1 — Learn about asthma
Learning about asthma is easy. The American Lung Association has many free resources to help you and your child learn how to keep asthma in good control. Well controlled asthma is the key to helping your child stay healthy and active.
• Step 2 — Talk to the school nurse
A visit or phone call to the school nurse should be your next step. Together, you and the school nurse, along with your child’s health care provider, can work to reduce asthma triggers and manage symptoms while in school.
• Step 3 — Schedule Asthma Check-up
Each school year should begin with a visit to your child’s health care provider for an asthma check-up. This check-up is the best time to make sure your child is on the right amount of medicine for their asthma, to fill out any forms required by the school and to create an asthma management plan as described in Step 4. Kids with asthma should visit their health care provider every three to six months, depending on how often your child is having symptoms.
• Step 4 — Develop an Asthma Action Plan
An asthma action plan is a written worksheet created by your health care provider and tailored to your child’s needs. The plan includes a list of their asthma triggers and symptoms, the names of their medicines and how much medicine to take when needed. The plan also explains the steps to take to manage an asthma episode and a breathing emergency. An asthma action plan should always be on file in the school nurse’s office and easily accessible to anyone who may need to help your child use their inhaler.
• Step 5 — Get a Flu Shot
On average, one out of five Americans suffers from influenza every year. Respiratory infections such as the flu are one of the most common asthma triggers. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends everyone over the age of 6 months get a flu vaccination. The best way to protect your family from the flu is for everyone to get vaccinated.
For additional information on asthma and children, including a downloadable version of this checklist with even more details, visit www.lung.org/asthma or call 1-800-LUNG-USA.