I was out shopping the other day and was surprised to see the school supply section bustling with students and parents gathering supplies for the start of school. It seems like summer started yesterday, but ready or not, here comes a new school year! As children get ready by packing fresh supplies in brand new backpacks, parents of children with asthma also need to prepare for a new school year. More than 10 million school days are missed each year due to asthma-related absences, according to the American Lung Association. Parents can help their children start school on the right foot by reviewing this back-to-school asthma checklist:
- Talk to the school about your child’s asthma action plan: The American Lung Association’s Back-to-School with Asthma Toolkit has asthma resources and tips for parents, teachers, students, school nurses and school officials. The Asthma Toolkit also includes “The Basics for Parents,” which explains which asthma questions parents should ask their child’s school. Check that your child’s school nurse and/or teacher have a recent copy of your child’s asthma action plan, and ask if your child can carry their medication while at school. That way, the school will be familiar with your child’s medications and will be prepared to help in the event of an asthma emergency. The asthma action plan should include information about your child’s asthma triggers and symptoms, when and how to administer medication, and what to do in an emergency.
- Learn about asthma emergency protocols: Ask about the school’s procedures in the event that your child has an asthma attack. Label your child’s medication with their name, the name of the medication, and instructions for use. Make sure the school has emergency contact information for you and a few backup contacts.
- Keep tabs on air quality: If your child’s asthma is triggered by perfumes, air fresheners, cleaning chemicals, chalk dust, mold, and/or pet dander, talk to your child’s teacher and the school nurse about how your child can avoid these triggers. Each day, check the ozone forecast at the EPA’s AirNow site to monitor outdoor air quality and decide whether or not it’s safe for your child to play outside. Asthma symptoms can increase on days when ground level ozone is high, so your child might need to stick to indoor activities on those days.
Before school starts, consider making a doctor’s appointment for your child to make sure their asthma action plan is up to date. A little preparation with your child’s doctor and school will set your child up for a happy and healthy school year.