Children spend a large part of their day at school. You, your child, her physician and her school personnel must work together to keep asthma from interfering with your child's normal school activities. It's important that you meet with teachers, the school nurse, and other involved personnel at the beginning of each school year to discuss your child's asthma.
Children should not be sent home from school with minor asthma symptoms or because teachers think their cough is contagious. As long as usual daily activities can be carried out, all attempts should be made to keep the child in school. Parents should be available in case of an emergency, however. Also, keep in mind that sometimes children will use their asthma as an excuse to avoid school or activities. You and your child's teachers need to discourage this behavior.
Medications at school
Your child should be able to take his medications when needed. Some children may be able to carry "as needed" medication with them. Preventative medication that is given three times a day or less can often be given at home, even if the doses are not regularly spaced. For those medications that do need to be given at school, it is important to have a written asthma management plan from your health care provider. You or your child should ask for one if you do not already have one. Also, parents and teachers should be aware that many children with asthma want to hide their need for medication, and address this concern if needed.
Your child's teachers should be aware that some of the side effects of her medications may alter your child's ability to perform or behave appropriately. Some children may also suffer from poor sleep due to asthma symptoms. Teachers should keep you informed about any problems so that you can speak with your child's asthma team about the possibility of making changes.
Physical education and sports
There should be no restrictions on children's ability to play, take gym class, or compete in sports just because they have asthma. If your child has been instructed to take medicine before physical activity, however, make sure that he or she does so every time.
Certain environmental conditions (cold, dry air, pollution, high pollen and mold levels and viral upper respiratory illness) may cause more asthma symptoms with exercise. Your child should be allowed to rest as necessary. However, some children will use asthma as an excuse to avoid activities they do not enjoy and this needs to be recognized and discouraged. If your child is having difficulty tolerating exercise, his asthma treatment plan needs to be reevaluated.
Sometimes the classroom might contain allergens such as pets, dusty carpeting and mold; and irritants such as blackboards and chemicals for art or science projects. Children with asthma should be able to avoid these potential triggers without feeling separated from her peers. Some children with asthma and allergies have allergies to foods. If your child has food allergies, discuss any anticipated problems with school officials and cafeteria personnel.
Reviewed by: Paulette Taylor, RN, CPN, AE-C
Date: February 2009