Steps parents should take to protect their child with asthma in the new year
Each year when summer break ends and school begins, parents of kids with asthma often face anxiety about a new environment, a new teacher and the potential of new asthma triggers in the classroom. This year, anxiety is heightened because of the increased health risk that people with asthma face if diagnosed with COVID-19.
Nationwide, asthma is the most common chronic condition among children and here in Orlando, there are more than 61,000 children who live with the disease. In 2010, there were 640,000 pediatric emergency room visits due to asthma in children 15 and younger, and asthma remains the number one cause of school absences.
Whether a child is physically headed back to the classroom or engaging in distance learning, it is important that parents, teachers and the children’s healthcare provider discuss all factors that could impact the child’s asthma in the new school year.
When heading back to the physical classroom, children with asthma can face poor indoor air quality, especially since the school has been vacant for several months. Dust, dirty HVAC filters and classroom pets can irritate a child’s asthma or even cause an asthma event. And these factors aren’t limited to the classroom. Pet dander, mold, dust and dirty air filters can cause asthma exacerbations at home.
Now, with the threat of COVID-19, parents have more to consider when their child with asthma starts school. Children with moderate to severe asthma may be at higher risk of getting more serious symptoms if they are infected with COVID-19, but the disease is so new that experts are still doing research on this topic.
We recommend that parents of children with asthma take these steps to ensure that school – whether in the classroom or at home for distance learning – stay safe and healthy in the new year:
- Review your child’s Asthma Action Plan:Before school starts, visit your child’s healthcare provider for their annual check-up and review their Asthma Action Plan. During this visit, make sure that your child is up to date on all vaccinations, including the annual flu shot.
- Inform your child’s school about your child’s asthma and allergies:Speak with teachers, nurses, and PE teachers or coaches about your child’s asthma and share their Asthma Action Plan. It’s also important to have a plan with school personnel on what to do in case of an asthma event -- whether that be for your child to head directly to the school nurse or to use their quick-relief inhaler.
- Assess your child’s readiness to self-carry and self-administer their asthma medicines, and if your child does not self-carry, ask your child’s doctor if they are ready. If you don’t already have one, request a quick-relief inhaler with a valved holding chamber/spacer. Make sure to keep one at home and one at school. The use of a nebulizer may spread COVID-19 virus particles in the air and may not be allowed to be used in school settings.
- Learn about the signs of unhealthy air:A re you concerned about the quality of air in your local school or at home? Learn the signs and symptoms that can indicate unhealthy air. Learn how to identify problems and solutions regarding indoor air quality.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many parents face difficult decisions on whether to send their child back to the classroom or keep them at home for distance learning. These decisions can be more challenging with children with asthma, so we encourage these parents to follow the steps provided and get more resources on pediatric asthma at Lung.org.