Reviewed by Ann Mullen, RN, CNS, AE-C, CDE, TTS
As summer winds down, families are getting ready for the new school year. In addition to school supplies and new clothes, parents of children with asthma need to make extra preparations to assure that their child is taken care of safely at school. Think of back to school health.

With proper preparations, you can reduce the impact asthma has on your child at school. Children with asthma should be able to join their classmates in almost every activity at school.

Below are several tips to help parents of children with asthma prepare for the new school year.


Asthma Action Plan

Ask your doctor for a written Asthma Action Plan for the school. This plan should include what medicine to use to treat asthma symptoms and changes in peak flow zones (if child uses a peak flow meter), what medication to use as a pretreatment before exercise, emergency telephone numbers and a list of things that make your child's asthma worse.


Getting Ready for Fall

Now that summer is coming to an end, it's time to think about getting ready for fall allergies, school, common colds and cooler weather. This is also a time when people with asthma may notice a change in their condition. Being prepared for these changes can make a big difference in keeping your child's asthma well controlled. Speak with your child’s doctor to be prepared for these new exposures that can make asthma worse.


Meet With School Staff

Plan a meeting with school staff before or in the beginning weeks of the school year. It is helpful to have the school nurse, health aide, teacher and physical education teacher at the meeting. Your child also can be involved in the meeting. Take the written Asthma Action Plan to the meeting. Review the Asthma Action Plan, asthma symptoms, use of the peak flow meter, medicines and things that make your child's asthma worse.


Special School Supplies

Keep a spacer and rescue medicine at school for your child. If your child uses a peak flow meter at home you may want to keep one at school also. Be sure your child's teacher knows that the medication is there should a problem arise. Make sure the rescue medicine has not passed its expiration date. Take these items home at the end of each school year.


Gym Class

Make sure your child has a pretreatment for gym class or other physical activities, especially outdoors in cold weather. It is important to be sure that all teachers know this medication is to prevent problems or to take care of them if they should occur.


Field Trips

Asthma should not keep your child from participating in an off-site field trip. Be prepared to take medicines along to use for flare-ups. Trips to the zoo or a farm can be a bad experience if medications are not available.


Medication Side Effects

Studies have shown that asthma medicines typically don't cause concentration problems. However, if a child who receives high doses of medicine during an episode may experience side effects, such as restlessness and trouble concentrating. If you or your child’s doctor are giving increased doses or new medications, alert your child's teacher.


Keep In Touch

Continue talking with your child and school staff about managing asthma at school on a regular basis, even if everything is fine at school. Talk with the school staff if your child misses school and assignments. If your child is up at night with asthma symptoms, let the teacher know. Your child may be tired and have trouble concentrating the next day at school.


When to Stay Home

Talk with your child's doctor about when it is okay to stay home from school because of asthma or illness. Mild asthma symptoms can usually be handled at school but there are a number of factors (what triggered the asthma, the stability of asthma symptoms and peak flows, fever, how much medicine your child is taking, etc.) to consider when deciding whether to keep your child at home.


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