Controlling asthma effectively at school can help your child's ability to learn and participate in activities. Knowing that your child's school is ready to handle an asthma emergency can mean less worry for you. Francine Pearce, MD, a pediatrician with Franciscan Physician Network, shares tips to help prepare for a new school year when your child has asthma.
Exercise And Asthma
Just like any other child, students who have asthma need exercise and should be encouraged to participate in physical activities that are appropriate. Your child should have access to any medications that might be needed before or after aerobic exercise, whether it's for PE class or recess.
Having asthma doesn't keep a child from participating from sports such as basketball and soccer.
Talk with your healthcare provider before your child begins any exercise program or sport.
Knowing Asthma Triggers
Many things in our environment can trigger asthma flare-ups, including weather changes, colds, flu, mold, dust and pollens. If you know of annual seasonal allergen such as ragweed, Dr. Pearce advocates talking to your physician early in the season, before major flare-ups occur.
"Parents who know they have children with asthma-like symptoms, allergic rhinitis, that kind of thing, really need to be into their doctor in August so that we can start the preventive medications," she said. "If you know your child every fall, flares up with asthma, now is the time to be seeing your pediatrician and starting those preventative medications."
Common Asthma Triggers
According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, Some triggers particularly affect children with asthma and can make the inflammation in their lungs even worse. The common cold is one of the most frequent triggers for asthma attacks in very young children. Others include:
- Exposure to allergens (such as animal dander, dust mites or pollen)
- Strong smells (perfumes or other odors)
- Changes in weather; cold air
- Running or playing hard
- Crying or laughing
Communication Is Key
With your pediatrician or healthcare provider, create an asthma action plan for your child to share with teachers, nurses and other school staff.
"One of the most important things is to make sure you have your medications available to you, and then communicate with the school so that should your child have a flare-up or any issues that come up at school, the nurse is not blind-sided by it," Dr. Pearce said.
A written plan helps in the event of an emergency or in case another adult, such as a substitute teacher, is overseeing your child when an asthma attack occurs.
Your asthma action plan may include these topics:
- What medicines and when. Include directions on when to take controller (medicines you take every day no matter how you feel) and quick-relief medicines (medicines you take when you are experiencing symptoms).
- What triggers asthma symptoms. Describe your child's asthma symptoms and what to do if they should happen. Triggers or those things that make your child’s asthma worse may also be listed.
- Aerobic activity and recess. The medicine and dose your child needs to take before recess, PE class, and other exercise. Note any activities your child needs to avoid, or special precautions to take, such as wearing a scarf or ski mask on cold days, or not exercising outdoors when pollen counts are high.
- Emergency information. Include the name and phone number of your child’s healthcare provider, emergency phone numbers and when to call the provider or emergency medical services.
Make sure your child is comfortable speaking up when symptoms are occurring, Dr. Pearce said.
"Let them know, when you're short of breath, when your coughing starts more, please let your teacher know, because some children may just sit there and not understand that they should actually say something," she said. "Remind your child if they are feeling this way, to let the nurse or your teacher know, so that they'll know what to do early on."
According to the CDC, you can control your asthma! Know the warning signs of an attack, stay away from things that trigger an attack and follow the advice of your health-care provider.