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Back-to-School Tips For Parents of Children With Asthma

PHOTO: Rescue inhalers are an important part of the life of a child with asthma. The American Lung Association says it's important to have an asthma action plan for your school-age child, and to discuss it with the school nurse. (Photo courtesy of American Lung Association)
PHOTO: Rescue inhalers are an important part of the life of a child with asthma. The American Lung Association says it's important to have an asthma action plan for your school-age child, and to discuss it with the school nurse. (Photo courtesy of American Lung Association)
August 25, 2014

MADISON, Wis. - As children start a new school year, it can be particularly challenging for parents of kids with asthma. Kathleen Shanovich is a former school nurse and a pediatric Nurse Practitioner for University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.

"What is really helpful for school nurses is to have the family stop by, meet with them, and provide orders," Shanovich says. "Their albuterol or emergency inhaler should be available to the child at school. This is really important for the elementary schools and somewhat so for middle schools."

Shanovich says parents should insist that their medical practitioner provide a detailed asthma-action plan for the child.

"I provide this plan so school nurses understand how severe the child is, what asthma triggers are, how to step up and step down care," she says.

According to the American Lung Association, asthma affects close to 7 million children under the age of 18. Asthma is the leading cause of school absenteeism, accounting for more than 10 million missed school days each year.

Shanovich says there's one more very important item to put on the checklist.

"Children should also be getting flu shots, just because schools can be little Petri dishes of infections," she says. "Usually around mid-to-end September, you should be able to go into your primary-care doctor or provider and get a flu shot."

Influenza can trigger a serious asthma episode, and influenza poses a special risk to children with asthma, often resulting in more severe symptoms. Asthma is the third-leading cause of hospitalization for children younger than 15.

Resources to help parents of children with asthma are available at lung.org/asthma.

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI