“My child hasn’t needed their inhaler all summer, so do I still need to send one to school?” That’s a question I get asked every August. (By the way, the answer is YES!).
On average, 3 children in every classroom in America have asthma. While there is no cure, almost everyone with asthma can control their symptoms and lead a normal life without too many restrictions. This requires a good treatment plan and partnering with your child’s doctor, or sometimes an asthma specialist.
Even children with well-controlled asthma can face certain challenges when heading back to school every autumn. Did you know that emergency room visits due to asthma spike every September and October? Here are some things to consider to help keep that from happening to your child:
Make sure medications are up to date AND taken to school
Inhalers have expiration dates indicating when the medicine may not work as well. You can’t rely on seeing the puff, as a spray may still come out even when the medicine is gone or expired. This is also a good time to ask for prescription refills from your child’s doctor.
Have school forms filled out early
Trust me, your child is not the only one who needs to have medication forms filled out by their doctor. Allow a few weeks to have everything filled out and returned before the school year starts.
Share your child’s treatment plan with the school
Every child with asthma should have an up to date written treatment plan from their doctor. This should list your contact information, their daily medications, triggers, symptoms to watch for and when to use reliever inhalers.
Beware of classroom triggers
Triggers are exposures that can cause immediate asthma symptoms. Everyone with asthma has their own triggers, most common being upper respiratory infections, exercise and allergies. Chemicals act as irritants as well; if you can smell it, it can cause asthma symptoms. Some hidden triggers include classroom pets, carpeting (dust mite allergy), open windows (pollen), perfume, cleaning products, mold, cockroaches, rodents, and even chalk can create dust.
ER visits spike 3 weeks after Labor Day every single year. Why? That’s about how long it takes for viral infections to circulate after the start of school. Make sure you continue all recommended daily controller medications, practice good hand washing at all times, and have a treatment plan in place for when your child gets sick.
I could write pages more about this topic, but I hope these tips at least get you thinking about some of the steps to take to get your child ready to go back to school. Lastly, good face-to-face communication with school nurses and personnel is a big part of making sure that your child’s individual needs are met.
David Stukus, MD, is an associate professor of pediatrics in the Section of Allergy and Immunology at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Dr. Dave, as his patients call him, is passionate about increasing awareness for allergies and asthma.
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