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Score an A+ with Your Child’s Asthma Action Plan

When the school bell rings with the start of school, you’ll want the peace of mind that comes from knowing that your child’s asthma is well-managed. The best way to prepare the school staff to meet your child’s needs is to develop an asthma action plan.

What’s an action plan?

This plan describes how to manage your child’s asthma. It gives the school staff clear information—in writing—about what your child’s triggers and symptoms are, what medications he or she uses, how to make sure your child exercises safely, how to handle a flare-up, and when to call the health care provider.

You’ll need to work with your child’s provider to complete the plan. An asthma action plan generally covers these topics:

  • Medications. This refers to the medication your child uses daily to manage asthma, including the dosage and time of day, and the quick-relief medication to use when your child experiences changes in peak flow or has asthma symptoms.

  • Asthma symptoms and triggers. Those things that make your child’s asthma worse, such as pollen, chalk dust, smoke, mold, pet dander, cleaning products, exercise and certain foods, and symptoms of an asthma flare-up. You should list what steps to take when symptoms appear.

  • Exercise and recess. The medication and dose your child needs to take before recess, or exercise and activities your child needs to avoid, or special precautions to take, such as wearing a scarf or ski mask on cold days, or not exercising outdoors when pollen counts are high.

  • Problems and emergencies. The name and phone number of your child’s health care provider. You should include emergency phone numbers and when to call the provider or emergency medical services.

Putting it all together

It’s a good idea to meet with the school nurse, teachers, and coaches early in the school year. Your child can be there, too. Review the plan and discuss any school policies that affect your child’s asthma management. For instance, some schools allow kids to keep their quick-relief medicine with them in their bag or locker, but other schools keep medications in the school nurse’s office. Some schools allow children to self-administer an inhaler, but if your child doesn’t like to use an inhaler in front of the other kids, ask if he or she can be allowed to go to the restroom for privacy.

You’ll also want to know if the school nurse has a peak-flow meter and nebulizer available. If pet dander is a trigger for your child’s asthma, find out if animals, such as gerbils or hamsters, are kept in the classroom. Don't forget to discuss how medication will be handled during school field trips.

If the school doesn’t have a full-time nurse, you’ll want to provide the teacher with information on how to use an inhaler with a spacer, as well as how to use a peak-flow meter and what the zones mean. For example, many asthma action plans use the traffic light system. In this system, green means safe and corresponds to a peak-flow reading of 80 to 100 percent of your child’s best reading. Yellow means caution and indicates readings of 50 to 80 percent of his or her best reading. Red is 50 percent or less of your child’s best reading. Measurements in this zone mean he or she needs immediate medical help.

As the school year goes on, check in with the staff to review your child’s needs and discuss any concerns. The school nurse or your child’s health care provider may have forms you can use for your child’s action plan, or you can find one that can be personalized on the American Lung Association's website at http://www.lung.org/lung-disease/asthma/taking-control-of-asthma/AsthmaActionPlan-JUL2008-high-res.pdf. With a good plan in place, both you and your child will be breathing easier.