Asthma can be frightening and, for a parent, the urge to always be there to protect a child from asthma attacks is powerful. You can’t always be there, though, especially during the school day. It is important to help your child learn how to manage her own condition so she can take responsibility for her health and stay safe when you can’t be around.
Asthma at School
The first thing for both you and your child to remember is that you are not alone in your asthma struggle; one out of ten children in school has asthma. It can be a real roadblock to education with asthma being one of the biggest reasons for missed days. A child with asthma may be hesitant to participate in activities, especially athletics. She may also experience more fear, lower self-confidence and more bullying than healthy peers. Most importantly, a child with asthma runs the risk of having a life-threatening attack while at school.
Educate and Prepare Your Child
One of the most important things you can do, not only for your child’s safety but also for her self-confidence, is to empower her to take control of her health and her asthma. Make sure she understands what asthma is, how to be prepared for an attack by always having an inhaler on hand, and what to do when an attack happens.
Involve the School
Talk to your school administrators, teachers and nurse before the year starts. Make sure you have an asthma action plan on file and that your child’s classroom teacher and all the elective teachers know where it is and what the course of action should be in the case of an asthma attack. If you aren’t sure what an action plan should look like, talk to your pediatrician or allergist to develop one. Supply the school with multiple inhalers, with at least one in the office and one in the classroom. Talk to as many adults in the school as possible for greater awareness of your child’s health issues, and don’t forget the bus driver.
Prevent Triggers at School
Prevention is always the best medicine, and if there are steps you can take to prevent your child from being triggered at school, it will help you better manage her condition. Let the school know what those triggers are and work with administrators to take steps to eliminate them from the building if possible. For example, if dust mites trigger attacks, request that the school’s cleaning staff do extra dusting or more regular cleaning in your child’s classroom. If pollen is a trigger, make sure the teacher is willing to keep windows shut on high pollen days.
Sending your child off to school is an emotional time, but when she suffers from a disease that can turn deadly with little to no warning, it is also scary. Be calm about it so your child doesn’t get scared, prepare her and the school and take any precautions that are reasonable to limit the risk she’ll experience an asthma attack while in school.