Asthma and Truancy: Preventing Excessive Absences

B.S. Dietetics, Dietitian, Health Professional

Asthma continues to be one of the leading causes for missed school days in the U.S.  Over 13 million days of school are missed every year because of this chronic illness.  Missed days of school contribute to academic problems as well as causing issues for working parents who must drop everything to keep a sick little one home from school.  Thankfully, there are things you can do to help limit the days your asthmatic child misses this school year.

Create an Asthma Action Plan at school.

If you have kids in school you have probably heard this tip numerous times.  In fact, most schools require your student to have an Asthma Action Plan and rescue medications available.  If your child needs to be pre-medicated with albuterol before P.E. be sure that both the school nurse and your child's teacher are aware.  Be sure to ask the school nurse to inform you of any attacks that occur at school so you will have the full picture of your child's asthma control.  This will help you quickly identify any issues that need to be addressed with your child's pediatrician.

Keep records of your child's asthma control.

Sometimes the chaos of daily life can make it hard to remember exactly how many times your child has used their rescue inhaler or woken up with an asthma cough.  Having a spot to jot that information down is key to providing your child's pediatrician with the whole picture of their asthma control.  In this tech savvy world there are also some good apps available that can help you record asthma attacks, symptoms, triggers, medication usage, Peak Flow Numbers among other things. Check out this extensive list of apps for both iPhone or android. This information is essential in helping the pediatrician decide if your child's medications need to be changed or their dose increased.

Remove as many triggers as possible in your home and at school.

Reducing triggers in pediatric asthma is essential in maintaining proper control.  Check out my recent article for an in-depth list of common triggers and how to avoid them.  There are also numerous triggers at school that can set off a child's asthma.  Some of the triggers can include mold, pollen, dust, cleaning supplies, pesticide sprays, and even scented candles or perfumes worn by teachers or students.  Talk with your child's teacher and school nurse to limit these things in the classroom.

Be proactive about avoiding seasonal triggers by monitoring the pollution, pollen and mold counts and keep your child inside on those poor air quality days.  Our daughters are going to a school that will soon be undergoing construction.  The school nurse is working closely with me to limit their exposure and we have a plan for installing HEPA air purifiers in their classrooms if need be.

Avoid illnesses that can cause asthma flare ups.

Most pediatricians will recommend an annual flu shot and sometimes a pneumonia vaccine for children with asthma.  Be sure to get these vaccinations done in a timely manner because they can take two weeks to give your child full protection.  You don't want to wait until everyone has the flu to get the flu shot for your child.

Utilizing proper hand washing techniques and avoiding anyone who has been sick with in the last two days can also help your child stay well during cold and flu season.  Cleaning surfaces frequently touched at school can limit the spread of germs in the classroom as well.  Be careful though because inhaling fumes from cleaning products, especially bleach, can be very hard on asthmatics.  It is best to ask your child's school to do the deep cleaning after school hours whenever possible.

Create healthy habits to boost your child's immune system.

There are natural ways to boost your child's immune system and prevent illness.  Providing healthy meals that incorporate a variety of fruits and vegetables, making sure your child gets enough sleep for their age and exercising are all key in keeping your child's immune system strong.  There has also been some research indicating that probiotics may also help boost the immune system.  You can find probiotics in foods like yogurt or kefir.  My girls love the DanActive yogurt drinks in the morning.

Asthmatic children may still miss more school than healthy children but hopefully these tips will help limit the number of days.

_Jennifer has a bachelor's degree in dietetics as well as graduate work in public health and nutrition.  She has worked with families dealing with digestive disease, asthma and food allergies for the past 12 years.  Jennifer also serves the Board of Directors for Pediatric Adolescent Gastroesophageal Reflux Association (PAGER). _

See More Helpful Articles:

New Research Fights Pediatric Asthma Epidemic

6 Tips for Asthmatics to Manage Spring Allergies

5 Triggers That Could Be Wreaking Havoc On Your Asthma
The Cost of Asthma: Are you financially burdened?