By Kateri Wimsett, Education and Outreach Specialist
Asthma is a severe chronic lung disease. Approximately 1 in 10 children suffer from this disease in Thurston County. Asthma is a leading cause for school absenteeism, and can lead to academic, social and emotional consequences for kids. During the summer months parents can help manage asthma by reducing exposure to triggers like secondhand smoke and other irritants. Returning to the school environment can pose challenges for kids with asthma because of increased exposure to possible triggers and respiratory infections. Here are some tips that can help you prepare your children to go back to school.
- Have an Asthma Action Plan (also known as a management plan). Asthma Action Plans are developed with your doctor and tell others what your child’s daily treatment is. They also describe how to control asthma in the long-term and how to handle worsening asthma symptoms or attacks. You can download a free version of an Asthma Action Plan here.
- Schedule a check up with your child’s doctor to update your plan. Even if your child’s asthma is well managed, your Asthma Action Plan should be updated every school year. This is vital to making sure that your child’s asthma continues to be effectively controlled. It also gives a chance to review any medications and physical activity restrictions.
- Meet with your child’s school nurse and teachers. Share up-to-date information with them about asthma. Take some time to discuss your child’s specific triggers and symptoms so that they can be prepared to help your child if an asthma attack occurs. Discuss how your child can get their medicine.
- Know your school’s Asthma Emergency Plan. Ensure that your child’s school knows how to contact you in case of emergency. Also make sure your child’s action plan has your doctor’s phone number, your preferred hospital (emergency room), as well as contact numbers for other guardians or emergency contacts.
- Be sure your child and everyone in the family is fully vaccinated, including against the flu. The flu is a serious illness and the CDC recommends that everyone over six months old gets vaccinated. This helps further protect your child.
- Advocate for your child. If your child has just been diagnosed you may feel hesitant to make special requests of the school. But remember many children have asthma. You can work with the school to help improve indoor air quality for all students. One good place to start is: www.epa.gov/iaq/schools/parents.html
- If your child has asthma, talk regularly with them about their Asthma Action Plan. When your child is older, consider having your child carry their Asthma Action Plan in their backpack or purse. That way, your child can show or tell others where to find the plan should they have trouble breathing suddenly.
Take the time to review and update your child’s asthma care plan. This simple step can improve your communication with others regarding your child’s needs and help you feel more confident that the illness is well managed. Keep school staff and faculty updated to so they have the tools to help your child succeed.