School Kids Need Quick Access to Asthma Rescue Inhalers

Health Professional

Think about this.  There are many asthmatic adults who are embarrassed or too modest to seek medical attention.  Many are even so modest they prefer to use their rescue medicine in private.  So why would this be any different with children?

The truth is -- and this only makes sense -- that children are even more likely to not want to seek out help when they're having trouble breathing, let alone want to use their inhaler in front of someone.  And it's for this reason alone that school policies that ban kids from carrying their own inhalers are ridiculous.

Quite simply, common sense should prevail.  What if one child is having an asthma attack and another kid has an inhaler.  An extreme example of this was described by the Denver Post here.

One 8th grade child had an asthma attack, another 8th grader shared her rescue inhaler with the child having an asthma attack.  The child loaning her inhaler recommended the child having the asthma attack reported to the school nurse.

Everything there went just according to common sense.  That is, until school officials got involved.  The school has a zero tolerence policy regarding using and sharing medicine on school grounds -- even life saving medicine.  The loaning child was suspended 10 days, the asthmatic was suspended and ultimately expelled (that's EXPELLED!!!  As in:  kicked out of school).

Surely there may be more inolved here that we don't know, but the extremity of the case fits right into my point.  School policies regarding rescue medicine must have a bit of common sense in them.  Kicking a kid out of school for using an inhaler is poppycock.

The post quotes Dr. Henry Milgrom of National Jewish Health as noting that rescue inhalers pose a negligible risk, and this risk "pales in comparison to not treating (asthma)."

The main concern of schools is that kids will abuse the medicine.  Yet the facts show that when an asthmatic kid needs his rescue medicine, he needs it prompt.  If he hesitates to seek out help, and it then takes a while to gain access to the rescue inhaler, this can result in worsening asthma and even death.

The fact is that kids need rapid access to their inhalers.  They shouldn't have to stress about how they are going to gain access to them, it should be right in their own little pockets.  If they want to grab it and hide around a corner to use it, then they should be allowed to do just that.

I know for a fact when I was a kid I hated the other kids to see me using my inhaler.  I also hated them to see I was having trouble breathing.  So when I needed it I hid around a corner and took my puffs.  I wasn't a social kid, so seeking out adult help wasn't an option and probably never would have happened.

Many schools with "no medicine in kid pockets" policies are learning the hard way that these policies may not always be such a good thing (unfortunately, in some cases they don't learn).  It's sometimes better to risk kids abusing their rescue medicine than it is for those kids to suffer or die.

Likewise, it should be noted here that using your rescue inhaler when you are short of breath is not abusing it.  I think that some people assume -- especially those who don't have asthma -- that if a child uses his inhaler more than the doctor recommends that this constitutes abuse.  Yet that's not true at all.

Surely overuse of an inhaler can be a sign of worsening asthma.   It may indicate that  prompt medical attention is necessary.  Yet it can also be a sign of  hardluck asthma, or asthma that is not well controlled even with common asthma preventative medicines.

Perhaps with this wisdom in mind,  many school policies -- like  this one,  -- are being changed to the way it was when I was a kid where asthmatic kids could carry their inhalers and have quick access to them when needed.

Sure kids should be educated.  Parents should be educated.  And even more important, teachers and any person who will be responsible for kids-- including janitors, cooks, and aides --- must be educated about asthma.  They must know who has it, what signs to look for, what to do if the signs are observed, what  a kid's asthma triggers are, etc., etc., etc.

To be honest, when I was a kid, if a school had such a policy, I would have ignored it.  Not that I would be trying to be a rebel, but one size fits all school policies that don't consider the different personalities and needs of asthma students are bogus.  Asthmatic kids need to carry their own inhalers.  Period.