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Tips for students with asthma as they return to school

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American Lung Association recognizes asthma-friendly schools and offers back-to-school checklist for students with asthma

 As summer winds down, families across New Jersey are beginning to prepare for the new school year. A new school environment can sometimes be difficult for children with asthma. This back-to-school season, the American Lung Association in New Jersey highlights tips for families of children with asthma and stresses the importance of crafting a plan to properly manage asthma in a school environment.

“Before shopping for back-to-school supplies, parents of students with asthma should first consider their child’s health for the time that they spend under the supervision of school personnel and in the school environment,” said Norman H. Edelman, M.D., senior medical advisor of the American Lung Association. “They should work closely with their healthcare provider and school personnel before the school year begins to put a plan in place for good asthma control in the classroom.”

Asthma is one of the most common chronic childhood disorders in the nation, affecting an estimated seven million children under the age of 18. It is also one of the primary illness-related reasons that students miss school, accounting for more than 10 million lost school days each year.

Asthma is the third-leading cause of hospitalization for children under 15. In 2011, more than half of people with current asthma experienced at least one episode, or attack—with children 39 percent more likely than adults to have an asthma episode.

The onset of a new school year also marks the beginning of the cold and flu season. Influenza poses a special health risk to children with asthma, as these children often experience more severe symptoms. The American Lung Association in New Jersey strongly recommends that all children—especially those with asthma—be immunized against influenza.

As part of its Asthma Friendly Schools Initiative (AFSI) the American Lung Association launched the Asthma-Friendly Schools Champions Awards earlier this year with support from the Environmental Protection Agency and Genentech Pharmaceuticals. The AFSI Champion Awards recognize schools that have taken positive strides to create a healthier learning environment using the strategies outlined in the Asthma-Friendly Schools Initiative.

By recognizing schools that have taken a comprehensive approach to asthma management, the Lung Association hopes to increase awareness of childhood asthma, establish a cadre of schools that can share their best practices, as well as expand the number of schools working toward an asthma-friendlier learning environment. Silver and Gold level winners are schools that have gone above and beyond to protect the health of their students, faculty and staff. Award winners will be announced in September.

In preparation for the school year ahead, the American Lung Association in New Jersey urges parents who have children with asthma to complete the following checklist:

Step 1 – Learn about asthma
Learning about asthma is easy. The American Lung Association has many free resources to help you and your child learn how to keep asthma in good control. Well controlled asthma is the key to helping your child stay healthy and active.

Visit www.lung.org/asthma to learn about asthma and asthma management. Be sure to watch the short animation What is Asthma? to learn what happens in the airways during an asthma episode.

Asthma Basics is a 50-minute online educational tool for people with asthma or anyone who provides care for someone living with asthma. It teaches how to recognize and manage asthma symptoms, how to identify and reduce triggers, how to create an asthma management plan and how to respond to a breathing emergency.

Visit Lungtropolis along with your 5-10 year old child. You’ll find action-packed games designed to help kids control their asthma—plus advice for parents.

Step 2 – Talk to the school nurse
A visit or phone call to the school nurse should be your next step. Together, you and the school nurse, along with your child’s healthcare provider, can work to reduce asthma triggers and manage symptoms while in school.

Ask the school nurse to explain and provide all of the required forms you and your child’s healthcare provider need to sign and complete, including an asthma action plan.

All 50 states and the District of Columbia allow children to self-carry and use their asthma inhalers while at school. Each law is different; visit www.breatheatschool.org and click on your state to learn more.

Discuss your child’s asthma triggers and steps to reduce them in the classroom.

Ask about the school’s asthma emergency plan, and if coaches, teachers and staff are trained in how to recognize asthma symptoms and respond to a breathing emergency.

Step 3 - Schedule Asthma Check-up
Each school year should begin with a visit to your child’s healthcare provider for an asthma check-up. This check-up is the best time to make sure your child is on the right amount of medicine for their asthma, to fill-out any forms required by the school and to create an asthma management plan as described in Step 4. Kids with asthma should visit their healthcare provider every three to six months, depending on how often your child is having symptoms.

The Lung Association website provides helpful hints on how to talk to your healthcare provider and make your medical visits more satisfying.

Step 4 - Develop an Asthma Action Plan
An asthma action plan is a written worksheet created by your healthcare provider and tailored to your child’s needs. The plan includes a list of their asthma triggers and symptoms, the names of their medicines and how much medicine to take when needed. The plan also explains the steps to take to manage an asthma episode and a breathing emergency. An asthma action plan should always be on file in the school nurse’s office and easily accessible to anyone who may need to help your child use their inhaler.

Step 5 – Get a Flu Shot
On average, one out of five Americans suffers from influenza (flu) every year. Respiratory infections such as the flu are one of the most common asthma triggers. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) recommends everyone over the age of six months get a flu vaccination. The best way to protect your family from the flu is for everyone to get vaccinated.

For additional information on asthma and children, including a downloadable version of this checklist with even more details, visit www.lung.org/asthma or call 1-800-LUNG-USA.


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