School can present a variety of challenges for kids: did they get their homework completed? Did they get picked for the kickball game at recess? Are they making friends? Are their grades improving?
But for kids who have asthma, ordinary school concerns can pale in comparison. While a parent can closely monitor and curate the indoor environment of a home, schools can be less amenable to kids with breathing sensitivities. Because there are a myriad of possible triggers – from chalk dust to moldy ceiling tiles to fumes from craft supplies – a school setting can mean extra obstacles for asthmatic kids.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 6.8 million children – 9.3% of kids in the US – have asthma. And the numbers are only increasing.
In order to find ways to best support as asthmatic child in their school environment, it’s imperative for parents to keep a line of communication open with both administrators and the child’s teacher(s). Apprising them of the challenges your child faces can help not only your son or daughter, but others who might be facing similar issues. Improving conditions that can set off asthma attacks are good for everyone, because it generally means that the air quality and safety of a classroom has increased.
You can make sure your child is well-prepared by ensuring they carry their inhaler with them daily, and consider dropping off a backup at the school nurse’s office. Many states have specific laws about children bringing inhalers to school, though studies have shown that when asthmatic children are allowed to self-administer their asthma medication, they have a greater chance of preventing attacks. If your child sometimes requires a nebulizing treatment, setting up a protocol with the nurse so your child knows where to go if they experience a severe asthma attack can give both the parent and child peace of mind.
Understanding what asthma triggers can lurk within a classroom or school itself can also be helpful. The Minnesota Department of Health issued a report in 2009 called Reducing Environmental Triggers of Asthma School Walkthrough Project and listed the following as areas containing possible asthma triggers:
Common Building Related Problems
- Carpet next to moisture sources such as sinks, drinking fountains and water coolers
- Ceiling stains: evidence of moisture
- Entrances without walk-off mats
- No school bus idling policy
- Common pests: ants, mice, silverfish
- Reduction in custodial staff
- Plants: too many; no water trays; over watering; dead leaves/plants/insect infestations
- Refrigerators on carpet
- Upholstered furniture brought from homes of staff
- Consumer products such as air fresheners (plug-in, spray, solid) & cleaning products
- Animals in classroom (seen more frequently in elementary grade classrooms)
- Excessive clutter (seen more frequently in elementary grade classrooms)
Other sources, such as fumes from craft supplies, dander carried in on other students, changes in temperature or humidity, and perfume worn by adults can also act as potential triggers.
If school administrators are unable or unwilling to address or make changes to reduce the likelihood of asthma or allergy attacks in its students, it might be possible for the parents to band together to offer solutions. Volunteering to have a work weekend and fix small problem areas (a leaky water fountain, removing moldy plants, steam cleaning carpeting) can be a way to help. You can also offer your child’s teacher the use of a high-quality air purifier like the Beyond Guardian Air which can help improve the air quality not only for your child, but all the others in the class as well, especially if they’re seasonal allergy sufferers. Removing dander, dust, VOCs and contaminants from their immediate indoor environment can go a long way in reducing the probability of an attack.