If your child suffers from asthma, it is important that they avoid triggers that could lead to an attack. There is nothing wrong with asking school officials if they’ve taken steps to secure an asthma-friendly school or classroom. Don’t be afraid to advocate for your child if you see an issue.
What Does an Asthma-Friendly School Look Like?
When dealing with asthma in school, you should ask about and be on the lookout for these things in particular.
1. Air Quality
Good indoor air quality is vital for healthy lungs. Dust, smoke, pollen, dirt, and other allergens can cause inflammation of the airways, difficulty breathing, short-term illnesses, and long-term illnesses.
Ask your child’s school administrator about the air quality index to ensure your child is breathing clean air, inside and outside. If they don’t know the condition of the air, you can recommend that they get an air quality test by a local inspector. They can also test for mold, another known trigger.
2. Class Pets
Though classroom pets are not as common nowadays because of allergies, some classrooms still have them. Small pets are not generally a nuisance unless their environment is poorly maintained. Dander coming off hamsters and guinea pigs can act as an allergen, triggering an asthma flare-up. If your child has a class pet, confirm with their teacher that the cage is cleaned often.
3. Idle-Free Zones
It is best if schools maintain a zero-idle bus policy. Some even go further and request that parent pick up lines also be idle-free between certain hours. Fumes generated by idling hurt the environment and reduce air quality, making the air dangerous for children to breathe and making the school not asthma-friendly.
4. Tobacco Use
Make sure that there is a zero-tolerance tobacco policy on school grounds. Secondhand smoke is a dangerous asthma trigger and one your child should not be subjected to at school.
5. In-School Medical Care
Get to know your child’s school nurse. Talk to him or her about your child’s asthma and provide a copy of your child’s updated files, your doctor’s info, medication, triggers, symptoms, etc.
What Your Child Needs to Know
While it is important for your child to learn in an asthma-friendly school environment, it is equally important that you empower your child to take control of their own illness. Before school begins, discuss the following topics with your child:
1. Teach them how to use their emergency inhaler.
Your child should know exactly how to use their quick-relief inhaler if they suffer from an asthma attack at school and talk to their teacher about the effects of the inhaler. Asthma medications could affect student behavior, including hyperactive behavior which could be mistaken for ADHD.
2. Go over their Asthma Action Plan.
An asthma action plan is a written plan developed by you and your child’s doctor. It tracks lung test results, asthma symptoms, asthma triggers, correlations between attacks, medication, and other data. Using that information, the plan details what should be done in certain emergency situations. It provides a great resource for you, your child’s doctor, and anyone else who sees your child regularly.
3. Help them recognize their symptoms and triggers.
Make sure your child can recognize their attack symptoms, as well as their common triggers. Knowing what might cause a flare-up could save them a dangerous attack. Teach them to speak up if they think they are on the verge of an asthma attack. Better to be wrong than sorry.
4. Have your child memorize emergency contact information.
Before you send them to school, drill your child on emergency names and phone numbers. They need to know who to call in case of an emergency. If they start feeling poorly on the bus or away from their regular teacher, then this could be vital information.
What Your Child’s Teacher Needs to Know
An asthma-friendly school is not just taking care of the environment, it also has to do with education since your child’s teacher will be with your child the majority of the day, keep them up-to-date on the following information.
1. Emergency Contacts
The school will likely keep a file of emergency contacts for each student but don’t be afraid to give them directly to your child’s teacher.
Whether your child’s medication is stored in the classroom or the nurse’s office, make sure the teacher knows exactly where it can be located. If your child uses a portable spirometer to track their asthma symptoms, be sure to educate the teacher on how it functions and when your child might be using it.
3. Symptoms and Triggers
Much like your child needs to know the signs and causes of an attack, their teacher does as well. Preventative treatment is the best kind.