Today, this chronic lung disorder affects an estimated 7 million youngsters. It’s the third leading cause of hospitalizations among children under the age of 15, and it’s responsible for 14 million lost school days every year, according to the American Lung Association. What’s more, asthma can cause discomfort, it can prevent kids from playing with others, and if it disturbs sleep it may lead to poorer performance in school, Dr. Edelman says.
There’s no cure for asthma, but it can be managed and treated, and children with asthma can lead healthy lives. Keep reading to learn more about childhood asthma and what teachers and schools can do to help their students manage it.
Identify students with asthma: At the beginning of the school year, ask students and/or parents if asthma is a concern. They'll likely notify you without your having to ask, but if their asthma is well-controlled they may forget to mention it.
Know the symptoms of asthma: The symptoms of asthma can differ from child to child, but generally include shortness of breath, wheezing, continual coughing and difficulty exercising. Dr. Edelman says unexplained anxiety in young kids also can be a sign of asthma.
Brush up on your asthma emergency skills: Most children with asthma have a mild or moderate form of the disease, but a life-threatening asthma episode can happen to anyone with the disorder—and it can come on suddenly. That’s why it’s important for your school to have an asthma emergency plan, which can help you respond to an asthma emergency quickly and calmly. The American Lung Association offers in-service training on responding to asthma emergencies. Related resources and information also are available at lungusa.org.
Maintain an asthma friendly environment: Dr. Edelman says schools should strive to maintain an asthma friendly environment. While there are several component to this, one of the biggest is indoor air quality. Poor air quality can be a concern for schools, especially if the facilities are older. Poorly ventilated exhaust from school buses and parking lots also can contribute to air quality problems. As part of its Asthma-Friendly Schools Initiative, the American Lung Association offers a free toolkit for schools, which includes information about improving indoor air quality, among other steps teachers and schools can take to help their students manage their asthma.