We are back to school, which means for asthma sufferers a new transitional period of adjustment. Starting school presents so many factors that can exacerbate the respiratorily-challenged— from the change to Fall weather to the newly painted classrooms filled with dust-laden story-time rugs, dander carrying class pets and chalk. Not to mention football field herbicides, newly cut grass and the nasty air pollutants that can turn regular lovely Fall days into red alert ozone days.
Beginning school is challenging enough without these assaults on breathing. Asthma at school can be a real concern for parents because kids with asthma are, for the most part, on their own. They and the adults in charge of them should be made aware of the warning signs for an attack; for when medication is necessary; and for when it’s time for a trip to the emergency room. This is as big a challenge for asthma veterans as it is for new asthma sufferers because a new year almost always presents new environments and conditions. Drs. Paul Ehrlich and Larry Chiamonte, authors of Asthma, Allergies and Children: A Parent’s Guide, offer a checklist of tips for parents to start the school year with their children’s health and quality of life in mind.
Here are 8 Things Asthma Doctors Want You To Know and Do:
- Find out who staffs the health clinic. Do they know how to administer a metered-dose inhaler or nebulizer treatment for your child? Do they have policies and procedures about food allergies, particularly peanuts? Do they regulate snacks and special-occasion treats such as birthday cupcakes?
- Find out if school policy allows students to carry medication. If your child is old enough, make sure she knows how to use her medications. If students aren’t permitted to carry medication, make sure the school staff knows where the medication is stored and how to administer it properly.
- Let the school know how to reach you during the day in case of an emergency.
- Tour your child’s classroom before school starts to identify potential allergy and asthma triggers. Offer suggestions to protect your child’s health.
- If your child has exercise-induced asthma, talk to the school and staff responsible and make sure coaches and physical education teachers know the warning signs that your child is likely to experience and how to handle an emergency if one occurs.
- Work with your child’s teacher. When a child is itchy or having trouble breathing, it’s hard to concentrate; certain over-the-counter and prescription medicines can make them moody and impact their ability to learn. Work with your child’s teacher to develop ways to help your child focus.
- Keep lines of communication with the school open throughout the year. Review your management plan periodically and make sure everyone is comfortable with the strategies in place.
- If your child is athletic and has asthma there are a few extra precautions you can take. Have your child run a few laps in a warm gym before going outside. This helps avoid cold air shock which causes bronchospasm. You might also ask your doctor about a medicine called a beta-agonist spray twenty minutes before exercise. There is no need to worry about exercising. Elite athletes who have overcome asthma to become champions, include soccer player David Beckham, Olympic Gold Medal skater Kristy Yamaguchi and Olympic swimmer Mark Spitz.
Asthma can be maintained with care and a little forethought and planning. But make no mistake, asthma is a serious disease that can be life-threatening.