7 Steps to Preparing Asthmatic Children for School
Wow! Summer flew by and now it's that time of year when kids register for school and parents buy school supplies. It is easy to remember to get the backpacks, lunch bags, and pencils, but planned asthma appointments with the doctor, completed asthma and allergy action plans, and extra emergency medications are often forgotten.
For me, this has been a huge change. I have been homeschooling my children for several years and now I find myself fighting the crowds at the local school supply sales and trying to find the "hidden" appointments with our family doctor to get health care records and forms signed for each of my two children. Trying to organize all of the various asthma and allergy action plans and the inhaler and Epi-pen® permission slips so that they can self-carry these life-saving medications is a very interesting process.
But it's worth it. Students learn best in a safe, happy environment. Parents can support the educational process better when they are confident that their children's health is well taken care of. To make the process of going back to school easier for children with asthma or severe allergies, parents can prepare by taking the following steps:
o Schedule a planned asthma visit with a health care provider to get or update your child's asthma action plan, make sure his asthma in under control, make adjustments in medication and treatment, and get new prescriptions.
o Obtain regular asthma medications for home and an extra set of emergency asthma medications for school.
o Obtain a current, written asthma/allergy management plan from the doctor. A Certified Asthma Educator may be able to help with this.
o Meet with a certified asthma educator to help your child learn the best way to use all of their medications. Asthma educators can also help families find usefulful resources in the community and assist them in accessing medications and health care providers in their area.
o Ensure that all necessary asthma and allergy-related files are completed at school and that all staff (including principal, teachers, nurses, and coaches) have immediate access to emergency information.
o Ensure that the school staff is trained in assisting students in emergency medication administration through staff training sessions and workshops focused on asthma and allergy education and support in the school. If staff has not been trained, organizations such as Allergy & Asthma Network Mothers of Asthmatics, American Latex Allergy Association, American Lung Association, Asthma & Allergy Foundation of America, Asthma Allies and Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network can help.
o Verify that all emergency medications are immediately accessible to the student during school and school-related activities.
Help Your School Protect Allergic and Asthmatic Students
Schools must make an effort to create environments so that children with asthma or allergies can live and breathe without the fear of an unnecessary asthma or anaphylaxis emergency. By coordinating the efforts in several areas throughout a school or entire district, schools can be prepared to prevent and manage any respiratory emergency.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has outlined six strategies for addressing asthma in schools. Each school and school district should decide the order and manner in which to address these strategies.
o Establish management support systems
o Provide appropriate school health and mental health services
o Provide asthma education and awareness programs
o Provide a safe and healthy school environment
o Provide safe, enjoyable physical education and activity opportunities
o Coordinate school, family, and community efforts related to asthma
Managing asthma and anaphylaxis in the school setting is not just possible - it is imperative. Addressing these issues must be done in a team approach that includes the student, parent, and school staff. Asthma can be managed so that students are not restricted from learning or typical activities, parents are confident that their child's asthma is being managed at school, and school staff has a standardized plan for handling all asthma and anaphylaxis episodes.
As I said, this year is a new experience for my family. My children and I are very excited about this new experience. We are fortunate to have a school administration that listens and has taken specific and calculated steps to make sure that my children will be able to fully experience an awesome educational opportunity in a healthy and safe environment. We don't have to be concerned about whether or not inhalers and Epi-pens® will be accessible or if furry animals will be visiting and triggering allergy and asthma episodes.
If you have children entering school, take the time to get to know the administration and learn about their experience and standardized plans to address asthma and allergies. Make sure that a written plan of action addresses the right for the student to have access to his medication (including self-carrying, when appropriate), animals in the classroom, fragrances in the schools, emergency procedures, access to medications when on off-campus events (i.e. field trips), and asthma and allergy awareness and educational opportunities for students and staff.
It is always best to handle these things in the beginning of the year. Never feel uncomfortable about having your questions or needs addressed by school administration. Everyone wants our children happy, healthy, safe and free to learn.
Gerri Rivers' home state of New Mexico was in the Top 10 Schools in the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America's 2008 State Honor Roll report. Click here to find out where your state ranked.