At the start of each school year Inhalerswe are consumed with medical paperwork – physical forms, immunization forms, medication forms and emergency contact forms. You may be wondering why they’re important.

Working directly with school nurses as an asthma educator, I can’t tell you the countless times I hear that a student has no forms and does not have the proper medication in school to treat their asthma. These are not the students who occasionally, if ever, visit the nurse’s office with a mild asthma exasperation. These are the students who have constant breathing issues and spend a majority of the school year seeking help from the school nurse.

The state of Pennsylvania’s Act 187 states that: “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.” This means that state laws allow children to carry their own inhaler if they demonstrate the ability to use the inhaler and behave responsibly when using the inhaler. However, it’s vital that children let the nurse know when they are using their inhaler and if their symptoms are worsening so they can monitor the situation.

If a child starts having breathing issues, but doesn’t have their inhaler or their updated medical paperwork, the students have nothing with them to reverse the problem.

Short-acting medications reverse asthma symptoms in three to five minutes. Being able to easily use their prescribed inhaler dosage and following their asthma action plan can send the child back to class to finish the day rather quickly. Not having access to their inhaler can turn an easy fix into a 911 call, causing the exasperation to worsen, putting the student in an ambulance and looking to a future hospital stay.

Asthma is one of the top reasons for absenteeism in school settings. A simple fix is to equip the student or school nurse with the proper tools to treat the asthma. So this year when all the forms come pouring in, remember that a simple act of proper preparation keeps your child from a situation that could lead to hospitalization.