Getting Ready for Back to School? Don't Forget About Asthma!

Yep, it's that time again. Back to school.

Not only do stores have the shelves stocked with school supplies, but they also have Halloween and Christmas decorations out! Nooooo....I'm not ready for summer to be over!

But it's coming to an end and kids are heading back to school. You probably have a checklist from the teacher that looks something like this:

  • Pens
  • Pencils
  • Notebooks
  • Calculators
  • Hand sanitizer, etc.

But does your child have an Asthma Action Plan? A what?

An Asthma Action Plan is a one page form with written instructions from your doctor that let you know what to do if you are in different "zones" for your asthma. The zones are just like a stop light - green, yellow and red.

  • Green zone means go!  (Your asthma is good)
  • Yellow zone means caution! (You may be coughing, wheezing or short of breath. Your doctor will write instructions - use 2 puffs of your rescue inhaler, etc.)
  • Red zone means get help from a doctor!   (Your medication isn't helping, you are breathing hard and fast, you are having a hard time talking or your ribs or collarbone are retracting)

Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America (AAFA), has an asthma action plan on their website.

American Lung Association has an Asthma Action Plan that also works as a permission form to let kids carry their inhaler at school.

But aren't schools "drug free zones?" That means kids can't carry their inhalers with them, right? Wrong! American Lung Association says:

"All 50 states have laws that allow children to self-carry and use their asthma inhalers at school."

However, you MUST check with your school and see what form you need to fill out. My school nurse sends a combination Asthma Action Plan/ permission form from our state health department every summer. Since she sends it in the summer, that gives me plenty of time to make an appointment with Asthma Doc and have him fill it out and sign it. Then I make a copy for myself and send it to the school nurse so she has it on file before school starts.  She then makes sure all of Daughter's teachers have a copy.

My daughter is in high school, so she is old enough to know when to use her inhaler and how to use it. Younger kids may not be able to do that (have you ever see a first grader playing with his inhaler to see how many times it will send out a puff of medicine?!)

To find out if your child is ready to carry their inhaler with them (rather than having the teacher or school nurse keep it locked up in a drawer somewhere) the American Lung Association has a "Student Readiness Assessment Tool".  It has 15 questions you can ask kids to see how much they know about asthma and if it safe for them to carry their inhaler and use it themselves.

Some kids have more experience with asthma and inhalers that other kids, and everyone is different. So, review the one page questionnaire with your kids and see if you feel like they are ready to carry their inhaler with them.

I also meet with my daughter's teachers and let them know she has asthma. I tell them what will trigger (or cause) an asthma attack, and we set up a "sign" with each teacher so she can quietly leave the room and use her inhaler away from prying eyes.

Sometimes it can be as simple as catching the teacher's eye and swinging her key chain around, flipping her ID card, or tugging on an ear lobe. The teacher will look at my daughter and nod, and she will go out of the classroom to use her inhaler.

So, when you are getting ready for back to school, don't forget an Asthma Action Plan! Kids are at school 7 hours a day - we want them to be safe and for the teachers to know what to do if they are having problems with their asthma.

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