Schools work hard to ensure the well-being of all students. Those with asthma have special needs, and helping them stay healthy requires a special plan.
Here are three components that are critical if children with asthma are to remain in class and out of the school medical office and hospital emergency room.
1) Medical Management Plan
In NYC schools, the Medication Administration Form (MAF) must be updated yearly. Parents and guardians must complete both sides of the MAF form. On Side 2 there is a place for the doctor and parent/guardian to sign permission for a student to self-carry and self-administer medication.
2) Reduced Exposure to Triggers
Children learn best when they feel well. For those with sensitive airways, air quality can make the difference between being in class or being in a hospital emergency room. Poor air quality can lead to poor health and increased use of medication, unscheduled doctor visits, emergency room visits, and hospital admissions. Airborne particles and gases affect breathing, inability to concentrate, activity limitation, and asthma symptoms that inevitably mean missed class time.
Schools should conduct yearly environmental Walk-Arounds to identify and remediate trigger hot-spots. Parents and teacher should have yearly trainings and/or reminders about triggers in the home and school. All children should know about asthma, if onyl to be able to help classmates in distress.
Health and safety laws that protect children work best when the all members of the community are informed about them. (Spread the word!) Most are designed to reduce exposure to pollutants that can be found in and around schools, e.g., vehicle exhaust, tobacco smoke, cleaning chemicals and pesticides. Recycling laws help to protect environment and, in states such as New York, medication access laws ensure that children can carry and take any necessary medications.
3) Asthma Support Team
It really does take a village. Every school should have an Asthma Support Team that is responsible for identifying
health protection gaps and finding solutions to support students with asthma. Team members may be administrators, teachers, parents, parent coordinators, and members of the custodial and medical staff. If a school has a student safety squad, science club, or peer educator group, consider how it can help raise asthma awareness in other students. Talk with neighbors and local businesses about team efforts. A key team member will be someone from the school medical staff. Early in the school year, he/she should attend a PA/PTA meeting to answer parents’ questions, and a staff meeting to answer teachers’ questions.