At the start of each school year we are consumed with medical paperwork—physical forms, immunization forms, medication forms and emergency contact forms. They come in the mail or are sent home with the student. It’s easy to place them on a stack with great intentions to complete and send back, but then school starts and before you know it, they are forgotten. But they really are important, why?

Working directly with school nurses as an asthma educator I can’t tell you the countless times there is a need to treat a student with asthma but there are no forms and the proper medication has not been sent in. These students range from those who occasionally present at the nurse’s office with a mild asthma attack, as well as those who have constant breathing issues and spend a majority of the school year seeking help from the school nurse. Keep in mind however, that a mild attack can turn into a major one if the proper medication and action plan is not in place and followed.

The state of Pennsylvania law states (Act 187):

 In order to ensure that a child has his or her asthma medication immediately available when an asthma attack occurs, Pennsylvania schools are required to develop a written policy that allows school aged children to carry (possess) and use (self-administer) their asthma medication. 

It is important to talk with your school nurse about your child’s asthma management before school begins or shortly thereafter. Schools have written policy and procedure that includes asthma action plans that can be completed by both parent and physician. Practice with your child proper inhaler/spacer technique and talk about the purpose of each medication. There’s a good chance your school nurse will require your child to demonstrate they are ready and equipped to self-carry.

If you are not sure what the difference is between short-acting bronchodilators and controlling medication, then consider a conversation with your pharmacist and invite your student to be part of the meeting and ask questions. Short-acting medications reverse asthma symptoms in 3-5 minutes,   easily allowing the child to return back to class to finish the day. Not having access to the inhaler can turn an easy fix to a 911 call, causing the attack to worsen. Now the student is in an ambulance and looking at a possible hospital stay and you are being pulled away from work.

Asthma is one of the top reasons for absenteeism in school settings. A simple fix is to work with both your asthma doctor, school nurse, and student to create an asthma action plan that covers medication use and what to do if an attack occurs. To help you get started, contact Breathe Pennsylvania at 1-800-220-1990 or and talk with our Certified Asthma Educators.