School and Asthma
If you have asthma, you probably have a routine at home for taking care of it. Maybe you have to keep your room really clean, stay out of the garage when your mom or dad is painting, or take long-term control medicine (also called controller or maintenance medicine) at the same time every day.
But for much of the year, you’re not at home. You’re at school. What can you do there to take care of your asthma? Let’s find out.
Have a Plan
When you’re dealing with asthma, you need an asthma action plan. This plan is what tells you and the grownups around you how to treat your asthma, including all the medicines you take, what to do when you have a flare-up, and how to use your peak flow meter if your doctor wants you to use one.
This plan should be written down. You and the adults who care for you should have a copy. And the plan should definitely go to school — all of your teachers and the school nurse should have it. It will cover situations that could occur at school.
It might tell you which medicine to take if you have a flare-up. It also should tell you what kinds of situations to avoid — such as outdoor activities on days when there’s a lot of pollen in the air. Of course, you’ll want to know what to do in these situations. But the plan is also helpful for the teachers and other grownups at your school. With the asthma action plan, they know how to take care of you if a flare-up happens.
Time for a Meeting
Your mom or dad will probably be the one to bring a copy of the plan to your school. He or she might want to meet with teachers, coaches, and the school nurse to review the plan and make sure these adults understand it.
At this meeting, they’ll talk about your asthma medicines so they can make sure you take the medicines just as the doctor prescribed. That may mean using your peak flow meter and inhaler before gym class and recess every day. Or it may mean you just need to have your inhaler where you can get to it in case you have an asthma flare-up at school.
Depending on what your school’s rules are, your teacher may keep your medicine for you, or it might be kept in the school office or the nurse’s office. Some kids are allowed to keep their medicine in their lockers or bags. Your mom, dad, or teacher can help remind you to always have your medicine with you, even on unusual days, such as when the class goes on a field trip.
You probably don’t want to make a big deal out of your asthma. If you follow your asthma action plan, you are more likely to keep your asthma from becoming a problem at school. But it’s a good idea to let your friends know about your asthma. That way, they’ll understand why you take medicine and they could help you if you were having breathing trouble. Because 1 or 2 out of every 10 kids has asthma, you may find out that other classmates have asthma, too.
Make Your Plan Work
If your plan tells you to use a peak flow meter and take medicine every day, it’s important to do it. If you don’t, you could end up having breathing problems or flare-ups at school. It’s no fun missing recess or having to go home because you’re wheezing and coughing.
If your medicine is in the health office, you can just take it there. If you have it, or your teacher keeps it for you, you might not want to take it in front of the other kids in your class. If that’s how you feel, ask your teacher if you can go to the school office to take your medicine.
And don’t think that because you have asthma you can’t run around the playground, play ball in gym class, or go out for the school soccer team. Lots of professional athletes have asthma. Just make sure that you talk to your doctor about when you should take your medicine (many kids with asthma have to take it before they exercise) and that your coach or gym teacher knows about your asthma.
Don’t feel bad if you have to sit out a game or practice now and then. Sometimes kids with asthma need to take it a little bit easy, especially when they are sick or if the weather outside is really cold.
Tips on Triggers
Triggers are the things like pollen or exercise that lead you to have asthma symptoms. Your mom and dad have probably taken steps to remove triggers from your home, but it’s harder to avoid triggers at school.
Still, you can do a few things. For example, if cold air makes your asthma worse, make sure you have a scarf or ski mask if you’ll be outside during the school day. If chalk dust is a problem, your teachers may be able to use dry erase boards instead. If mold and pollen counts are high, your teacher might be willing to close the windows.
Cleaning products and classroom pets, such as hamsters or gerbils, also could irritate your lungs. Your teacher might be willing to make changes so you don’t have breathing problems in class. If you feel funny asking your teacher for these special requests, ask your mom or dad to speak to the teacher, school nurse, or principal. Most teachers are glad to help. You can’t learn if you can’t breathe!
Reviewed by: Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, MD
Date reviewed: January 2014