Back to school means new notebooks and freshly-sharpened pencils, bright yellow buses and meeting new friends. But for seven million kids in the United States alone, back to school also means worrying about asthma attacks–from where there will be triggers, to what will happen if a severe attack takes place.
The best way to have the healthiest possible year–and to quiet both parent and child anxieties–is simply to prepare. We’ve outlined six simple steps to take before diving into the new school year, especially if your child is attending a new school.
Schedule a Check-Up With Your Child’s Doctor
Kids with asthma should see their doctor for a check-up at least once each year. Doing it before the school year starts can ensure that your child has all of the prescriptions they need, that everyone has their questions and concerns answered, and that all pertinent school-related medical paperwork is filled out.
Younger children may need to be coached on their inhaler technique, while children with seasonal allergies that affect their breathing may need new medications before heading off to school. Finally, children who use peak flow meters may want to have a spare to keep at school, so that their breathing ability can be monitored on campus as needed.
Write An Asthma Action Plan
The American Lung Association has a printable, one-sheet Asthma Action Plan form that compiles all of the emergency information that you need, from a description of your child’s condition, to medication plans for different levels of attacks, to emergency contact information.
Fill this form out with the assistance of your doctor, and make enough copies so that you can distribute it to important school personnel. Alternately, your school or doctor may have similar forms to use.
Also be sure to review this form with your child–and give them an opportunity to ask questions.
Talk to Teachers and Other Important School Personnel
Meeting with the people who will be caring for your child at school is vital to their health and wellbeing. Talk to your child’s nurse or teacher–and don’t forget caregivers who might be in contact with your child throughout the entire day. This list could include:
- Your child’s teacher(s)
- Gym teachers
- Lunch and recess teachers
- After-school sports coaches
- The school nurse
- School bus drivers
- After school caregivers
Make sure each person receives an Asthma Action Plan, that they are familiar with common triggers, and that they understand the severity of your child’s condition.
Also be sure to ask the nurse about the school’s asthma-related policies and medical emergency procedures–and share any age-appropriate information with your child.
Look for Asthma Triggers at School
If your child is starting a new school altogether, request a tour before the first bell of the year rings. This can often be coordinated with meeting your child’s teacher or the school’s nurse. During the tour, ask questions about the school’s medication policies and get a clear picture of where your child will be spending their days, from their classrooms to the cafeteria. Also look for potential triggers, which could include:
- Dust and dust mites
- Chalk dust
- Cockroach allergens
- Air pollution
Don’t forget to get a clear idea of when exercise could be a trigger, including recess, gym class, and after-school sports and activities–and talk to teachers and coaches about what it’s like for kids to have asthma and be active.
Get Your Asthma Medication Organized and Labeled
After you are familiar with the school’s medication policies, prepare any medication that your child will need carefully. Make sure it is labeled, has dosage information, has administration information, and your child’s name. Check everything for expiration dates, and note those in your records. Once you understand where the medication will be kept, and which medications can be kept with your child, share that information with your child, too.
Talk to Your Child–and Listen to What They Have to Say
No matter the age of your child, it’s important to talk to them about their health-related concerns about returning to school and answer any questions they might have. Remember that asthma is intricately connected to stress and anxiety–and each can act upon the other. Making sure that your child is comfortable and informed is just as important as having all of their medications and emergency plans in place.
Need more resources about asthma, for the whole family? At Jumo, we are dedicated to educate families–including kids of all ages–about their health. Check out our asthma resource center for videos, comic books, podcasts, and discussion guides.
About Sarah Aswell
Sarah Aswell is a freelance writer who lives in Missoula, Montana with her husband and two daughters. Her writing has appeared in publications that include The New Yorker, Healthline, Success Magazine, Working Mother, and Scary Mommy.
- American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. (2018) “Back to School With Allergies and Asthma.” https://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/library/asthma-library/back-to-school-with-allergies-and-asthma
- American Lung Association. (2018) “Back-To-School With Asthma Preparation Checklist.”http://www.lung.org/assets/documents/asthma/back-to-school-with-asthma-2018.pdf
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2012) “You Can Control Your Asthma.” https://www.cdc.gov/asthma/pdfs/asthma_brochure.pdf
- O’Brien, Sarah. (2016) “Asthma Statistics.” https://asthma.net/basics/statistics/