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Back to School with Asthma: Best Practices for Care at School

For a group project at one point, I reviewed dozens upon dozens of school, district, and government policies on how asthma is managed in schools. While the general public, and educators specifically, know a growing amount about asthma as the years pass, there are still unfortunate incidents of asthma mismanagement, misinformation, or under-education that have the potential to put kids with asthma at risk each day when they go to school—a place both student, and parent, perceive to be safe. With strong policies in place for providing excellent care to kids with asthma, and training for the adults looking after them, kids can focus on what they go to school for—to learn!

There are certain best practices I found when reviewing these documents—some were found across multiple policies, others were ones that I highlighted because they were SO important but generally overlooked. Does your child’s school follow these “best practices” for asthma management at school?

  • Students should be able to carry their rescue inhaler with them at all times. Inhalers, like epinephrine, should never be locked up. Backup medication should be available just in case. Expiry dates on medication stored at school should be checked regularly.
  • A step-by-step asthma action plan should be on file for all students with asthma; this should include the student’s triggers and avoidance plan.
  • Kids with asthma should never be left alone when having symptoms, or asked to walk to the school office or health centre alone—they should be accompanied by an adult if at all possible.
  • All school staff (all teachers, assistants, caretaking staff, administration) understand asthma, how to recognize both mild and severe symptoms, and how to respond (ie. asthma treatment, providing inhalers)
  • School staff can identify children with asthma (and other medical conditions)
  • Parents, teachers, administration and the child understand their responsibilities.
  • Parents are, in part, responsible for helping the school determine ways to avoid the child’s triggers.
  • School/administration is responsible for providing resources to staff, should offer asthma awareness sessions, and confer with health professionals as needed
  • Physical education teachers should understand exercise induced asthma and how it is managed, and if kids need to pre-treat for gym class.
  • Staff who are accompanying students with asthma on multi-day/overnight trips should understand how the student’s controller medicines are used, and how they are to be administered
  • Asthma-friendly products should be used when possible, such as low-odor dry erase markers and dust-free chalk. Scent-free schools should promoted, both with regard to fragrant body products and cleaning supplies.
  • Medical identification jewelry should be worn by all students with asthma.
  • Other students should be educated on asthma in a way that is developmentally appropriate.

Schools are generally safe places—but making them safer for kids with asthma, and other medical conditions, is never a bad thing, and back to school season means a fresh start. If you have a child with asthma in school, what does your child’s school do well, and what do you wish your school would do differently? If you grew up with asthma, how do these new “best practices” differ from your own experiences as a student with asthma?

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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