Asthma Rescue Inhalers: Your 4-Step School Plan

by Jennifer Mitchell Wilson B.S. Dietetics, Dietitian, Health Professional

Going back to school is always tricky if your child has asthma. One way to make it less so is providing the school and your child with what they need to know about the all-important rescue inhaler, a key component of asthma medication.

You’ll need to make sure the school knows what to do, your child knows what to do, and all your paperwork is gathered and in order. Here’s an effective four-step plan.

1. Inform the school nurse.

Your doctor should help you complete an asthma action plan and any other paperwork required by the school. It is important for the school nurse to know how much medication your child should use for an attack, when to contact emergency services, and whether there is any need to pre-medicate your child with the rescue inhaler (such as for physical education class or a field trip that may expose him or her to allergens that trigger asthma attacks).

2. Make sure your child knows about his or her medication.

Most school-age children are old enough to know the basics of their asthma medication. They should know what amount of medication is appropriate and how to tell a nurse if the dosage is incorrect.

For example one of my girls was supposed to take two puffs of her rescue inhaler before PE class to prevent an asthma attack. Her asthma action plan clearly stated that she was to take only two puffs. However, the substitute nurse mistakenly told her to take six puffs.

Thankfully, that didn’t constitute an overdose amount of rescue inhaler, but it definitely made my daughter feel horrible (and it really angered me). Teaching your children to speak up first can be of utmost importance.

3. Decide when your child should carry medication by herself or himself.

During middle school we decided that it was a good idea for our children to carry their rescue inhalers. There were a number of reasons that lead to that decision, one being that they were old enough to use their inhaler competently. Also, the girls would often get to school before the nurse did, and sometimes the medication was kept locked up, too far away to help in an emergency.

Every school has different rules for allowing children to carry their own rescue inhaler. Most require a written and signed permission slip from your child’s doctor. Check with your school to learn your district’s rules.

4. Keep track of rescue inhaler use.

When you have multiple people giving your child his or her asthma rescue medication, it is extremely important to know exactly how frequently it is being given. That’s because you don’t want your child being overmedicated, for one thing, and also to determine whether your child’s asthma is actually under control or not.

Oftentimes the use of a rescue inhaler more than a couple of times per week means that your doctor may need to make changes in the controller medication.

One practical way to keep track at school is to give your child a notebook to write down when he or she has self-medicated and when the nurse has delivered medication. This can be added to whatever you have had to use at home to give your doctor a more accurate picture of overall rescue inhaler use.

Sending your child to school when he or she has asthma can be scary for any parent, but the best way to alleviate concerns is to provide proper education to your child, the school nurse, and your child’s teachers.

Jennifer Mitchell Wilson
Meet Our Writer
Jennifer Mitchell Wilson

Jennifer Mitchell Wilson is a dietitian and mother of three girls. Two of her children have dealt with acid reflux disease, food allergies, migraines, and asthma. She has a Bachelor of Science in dietetics from Harding University and has done graduate work in public health and nutrition through Eastern Kentucky University. In addition to writing for HealthCentral, she does patient consults and serves on the Board of Directors for the Pediatric Adolescent Gastroesophageal Reflux Association.