Properly caring for a child with asthma — no matter how mild — means having a plan for what happens at school.
An asthma action plan is a document that you and your doctor create together that's specific to your child's needs. The plan gives you and your child guidance on how to avoid triggers, how to treat flare-ups and when to seek medical attention. Having a good action plan lets your child play sports and continue with normal activities until there is a sign of asthma flare-up.
"Getting your child ready for a new school year involves a bit of organizing, but if your child has asthma adding a few more steps can ensure a healthy year knowing your child's asthma is well managed for the hours they are in the school building," shares Debra Gerson, M.D., certified asthma educator and medical director at Open Door Family Medical Centers. Your child will need a letter signed by his doctor stating what medications he might need at school as outlined in your action plan. Usually the inhaler will be stored in the nurse's office, but some schools let the child carry an inhaler in his or her backpack. The AllerMates Asthma Prep Kit with Inhaler Case (Amazon, $25) is perfect for school.
"If you do not have an asthma action plan, make an appointment with your provider so they can make this individualized plan for your child," says Dr. Gerson. "You should review this plan with the school nurse and get a new one to her whenever it is updated by your provider." John N. Schuen, M.D., is a pediatric pulmonary and sleep medicine physician at Helen DeVos Children's Hospital. He cautions to make sure there is "nursing staff in the school that know the warning signs of an asthma attack and how to respond to each child in distress. That may require involvement of the parent to bring individual schools up-to-date with the latest inhalers and techniques."
Dr. Gerson also adds to ask your provider to write a prescription for two rescue inhalers and two spacers — one set for home and one to be kept at school. She also recommends that parents be aware of the expiration date of the inhalers stored at school and write the date down so you can get a refill to the nurse before the inhaler expires.
Can technology help manage asthma at school? Propeller Health markets a sensor for asthma inhalers that helps parents monitor their kids' rescue inhaler use with their smartphone. Each time the medication is used the location, weather and other data is recorded — and the family can share it with their child's physician, giving her the chance to analyze the data.
"It also helps parents know when kids have an attack at school and can send a text to the parent 'Jason just used his rescue inhaler,'" says Erica St. Angel, chief marketing officer. "The conversation then changes from 'Did you use your inhaler?' to 'What was going on when you had to use it?' and can help identify other triggers and symptoms," she adds. Managing a medical condition like asthma can be difficult once your child enters school, because not all kids are diligent enough to head for the nurse's office at the first sign of trouble.
With the proper planning and discussions, your child's asthma can be as well managed when she's at school as it is at home.
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