Asthma is a leading chronic illness among children and youth in the U.S. and one of the leading causes of school absenteeism. Approximately 6.8 million children and youth in the U.S. (9.3%) have asthma. In addition, teachers and custodians have been identified as having higher rates of occupational asthma.
The key elements needed for asthma control include:
- Using a personal Asthma Action Plan
- Taking medicine properly; this includes daily long-term control medicines for many students
- Avoiding or minimizing exposure to asthma triggers
- Recognizing the early symptoms of asthma and taking the appropriate action (by students and staff)
Helping students manage their asthma is a team effort
All school staff need to be educated — classroom teachers, physical education teachers, counselors, paraprofessionals, school nurses, custodians, food service workers, bus drivers, coaches, security officers, administrators — and anyone else who interacts with students at school. As with severe allergic reactions, asthma attacks can happen anytime and anywhere. By learning basic information about asthma, education professionals can help improve the lives of the students they care so much about.
To determine how well your school accommodates students with asthma, complete the How Asthma-Friendly is Your School? Checklist. This checklist can help parents, school staff, administrators and other school stakeholders determine if the critical asthma-friendly components are being implemented in their school or school district, and if not, help you determine where your school needs to improve on planning and preparation.
The asthma-friendly components address:
- Asthma Action Plans (download a PDF here or another version here)
- Tobacco smoke policies
- Policies that allow students to self-medicate and carry asthma medications
- Written emergency plans
- Full-time school nurses
- Asthma education for staff and students
- Physical activity
- Good indoor air quality
Asthma Triggers and Indoor Environmental Quality
Many of the common asthma triggers such as dust mites, mold, and cockroach body parts and feces can be found in the indoor environment, so it is critical to ensure that your school has superior indoor environmental quality.
Click here to learn more about indoor air quality.
NEA Healthy Futures and the Merck Childhood Asthma Network are pleased to offer a free, 1.5 hour online training through the NEA Academy, Managing Asthma in the School Environment: What NEA Members Need to Know.
The course will educate NEA members and other school stakeholders so that they can help students better manage their asthma while at school. Click here to take the course.