July 28, 1998 When parents of children with asthma start getting school supplies together this time of the year, they need to add another item to the list: an asthma action plan.
An asthma action plan is written with the help of the child’s doctor, and includes the child’s asthma triggers, asthma early warning signs and what to do in an emergency.
“The biggest mistake that’s made is when children are sent to school and no one is told they have asthma,” explains Kathy Pond, R.N., a LUNG LINE case manager at National Jewish Medical and Research Center.
Asthma triggers vary by person, but can include:
- Molds and pollens;
- Perfume, cologne and strong odors; and
- Cold air
“Some children play and do fine, but when it gets cold or pollens are in the air--that throws them over the edge into an asthma attack,” Pond says. “Kids know when they aren’t feeling well. Encourage the child to be proactive.”
Other asthma triggers that aren’t so obvious include byproducts of new construction, such as dust, and strong odors from new carpeting, flooring and other building materials.
For children whose asthma is triggered by exercise, pretreatment--an important way to keep an exercise-induced asthma attack from happening--may be necessary before P.E. or recess.
“If you’re a teen-ager or a 5 year old, that meeting will help you decide who to tell when symptoms start,” Pond says. She adds, “We always tell the parents to call the contact person a couple of weeks after the meeting to see if they have any questions.”
Some schools allow children to keep medication with them; other schools require that medication be secured in a school office. (For children with serious asthma, LUNG LINE recommends that children be allowed to carry a “rescue” inhaler. This inhaler is used when the child experiences asthma symptoms, such as wheezing, excessive coughing or chest tightness.) Additional warning signs include a glassy-eyed stare, loss of concentration and hunched posture.
“If you know these things then you’re ready to go to school,” Pond says. For more information on childhood asthma and asthma action plans, call LUNG LINE, 800-222-LUNG.
Nearly 5 million children in the United States have asthma; in Colorado, about 67,000 children have asthma. In 1993, asthma accounted for about 198,000 hospitalizations and 342 deaths in people 25 years old and younger, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 1993, among children 0-4 years old, blacks were six times more likely to die from asthma than whites, according to the same study. More than 10 million school days are missed every year in children 17 years old and younger.
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