Cover Story: Here's Your Back to School Checklist for Asthma
By Marilyn Walton, MHHS, RRT, AE-C, RPSGT
Summer is winding down and vacations are becoming happy memories. Now it is time to gear up for the new school year.
Parents and students are creating “back to school” shopping lists that include clothes, shoes, backpacks, lunch bags, notebooks, pens, pencils, and maybe even some cool locker accessories. Students going off to college may be shopping for dorm room essentials.
More importantly for students with asthma and their parents, however, is working through a health care provider to develop an individualized and comprehensive asthma management plan that will help ensure a safe and productive school year.
Where do you start? Here are some tips —
Do your homework
Preparation goes a long way in preventing flare-ups or emergencies. So along with that shopping list, a parent needs to prepare an Asthma Back-to-School Checklist, as advised by the American Lung Association and other reputable sources. Some points to include —
- Know asthma basics: Talk with your child about his or her own asthma symptoms, warning signs, triggers, and medications. Discuss possible emotional effects related to asthma. Encourage your child to be involved and share his/her thoughts and feelings.
- Schedule an appointment with your child’s health care provider: Make sure asthma and allergy medication prescriptions are filled. Obtain a spacer/holding chamber to use with inhalers for both home and school. It is also important to factor in maturity and lifestyle when choosing an effective medication regimen.
- Obtain an Asthma Action Plan, specific for both home and school: Have each plan tailored to your child’s personal needs. A good asthma management plan is designed to address the child’s asthma severity level. Don’t forget about an Anaphylaxis Emergency Plan for severe allergic reactions.
- Get a flu shot as soon as this year’s vaccines become available: Asthma episodes show a significant increase in September, right when everyone is digging into the new school year.
- Talk with the school nurse: Provide a copy of your child’s School Asthma Action Plan and discuss the details, including if pretreatment with albuterol before activity is ordered. Determine your child’s ability to self-carry and self-administer asthma/allergy medication.
- Find out about school policies: How are asthma or allergy emergencies handled? Where are medications stored and how accessible are they if the nurse is not available? Who is trained to help administer medications? How are field trips handled?
- Involve your child’s teachers and coaches: Meet with them from the start and communicate regularly during the school year.
Goals of good asthma management
When asthma is properly managed, children should feel safe at school and confident about their asthma care. Every child should be able to:
- Participate in physical activity without asthma symptoms.
- Sleep through the night without asthma symptoms.
- Have normal or near normal lung function.
- Have few, or no, emergency or hospital visits.
- Have minimal or no side effects from asthma medications.
Remember, following an effective asthma management plan is a vital component for a successful and fun school year.
Marilyn Walton is a member of the American Association for Respiratory Care who currently serves as the program education coordinator for asthma at the Community Outreach, Education and Support Center run by Akron Children’s Hospital in Boardman, OH.