The Asthma Friendly School

Your child will spend approximately 35 hours a week in school. For the parent of a child with asthma, those 35 hours can be filled with anxiety. What happens if your child has an acute asthma attack at school? Is his school doing everything it can to make it a safe place for him to spend more than one-third of his waking hours every week?

With the zero-tolerance policy that some schools have adopted for drugs on school grounds, the question of an asthma friendly school becomes even more vital. If your child has an asthma attack at school, will someone there know what to do? Will he have access to the medication that may save his life? The American Heart, Lung and Blood Institute suggests that you ask the following seven questions to assess just how Asthma-Friendly your child’s school is.

1. Is it completely tobacco-free? There should be no smoking in the school at any time, whether there are students in the building or not.
2. Does the school value quality indoor air?
Allergens and irritants in the air can trigger asthma attacks and worsen asthma symptoms. Common irritants and allergens include pet hairs and pet dander (is there a guinea pig in the classroom?), dust mites (are there carpets or upholstered furniture in the class?), cockroaches, paint fumes, pesticides and strong cleaning chemicals.
3. Is there a school nurse on the premises all day, every day? That’s the ideal situation, but it’s not always practical in today’s education climate. At the very least, there should be a nurse available regularly to students at the school who can help them manage their asthma treatment plans.
4. Can your child carry his emergency inhaler with him? Can he take his medication as ordered by the doctor? There are still many schools that don’t allow children to carry any medication with them at all, including inhalers. If your child’s school insists on locking all prescribed medications in a cabinet or drawer, it could put his life at risk. It’s not acceptable.
5. Is there a clear cut emergency plan for dealing with children’s asthma attacks? Do all adults at the school know what to do if your child is having an asthma attack?
6. Does the school educate students and staff about asthma? With asthma affecting nearly 7% of the general population – and as much as 25% of the school population in some schools – basic facts about asthma should be part of the health curriculum.
7. Do students with asthma have good, safe options for participating in physical activities? For instance, can they take their medication 30 minutes before phys-ed class to allow them to participate safely in the class?

What if your child’s school doesn’t meet the criteria – and you don’t have the option of moving them? As a parent, it’s your responsibility to see that your child gets what he needs to attend school safely. Educate your child’s teacher, talk to the principal, take it to the school department or the parent teacher organization. Making sure that your child’s school is asthma friendly can save your child’s life.