Asthma in School

Girl wearing a red shirt at school 

If your child has well-controlled asthma, he should be able to go to school or day care regularly. Your child should also participate in activities just like other children. But keep in mind that your child’s asthma can be triggered when he is at school. This page discusses what you can do to make sure your child’s asthma is taken care of at school.

Communication with your child’s teacher and school

It is very important to tell your child’s teacher and the school about your child’s asthma.

  • The school should have a copy of your child’s asthma action plan and a student asthma management form.
  • Your child’s teacher should know how to help your child with his reliever medicine if he has an asthma episode.

Let the teacher know if there are any changes in your child’s health, medicine, or asthma action plan.

Your child may have a new teacher every year, so you should talk to the school at least once a year before your child’s school year starts. Be prepared to teach the new teacher about your child’s asthma needs.

Asthma medicines in school

The teacher should be able to work with your child’s asthma action plan to give your child asthma reliever medicine in case your child has an asthma episode.

Give the teachers your child’s asthma medicines. Explain how to use them properly. Make sure the instructions are included. Make sure each medicine is well labelled with:

  • your child’s name
  • the name of the medicine
  • the number of doses needed
  • your doctor’s phone number

Tell the teacher to store the medicines in a cool, dry place where other students cannot get them.

When your child is ready to carry his own asthma medicine

Older children may be able to carry their own medicines and take them if they need to. Your child should follow the school’s rules about this. Ask the school if there are forms that need to be filled out in order for your child to carry his own medicine. You may need to give the school a copy of your child’s prescription.

Give the school a set of your child’s medicines so there is always a backup available for your child.

You, your child, the doctor, and the school should decide together if your child is ready to carry his own medicine. These are some questions you should think about when making the decision:

  • Is your child ready for the responsibility of carrying and taking his own medicine?
  • Can your child recognize the warning signs that he is going to have an asthma episode?
  • Does your child know when and how to use his medicine?
  • Can your child remember and follow the school’s rules about using medicine?
  • Do you want your child to carry and take his own medicine?
  • Do you know the school’s rules about using medicine?
  • Can you make sure your child always has his medicine with him, and that it is refilled when needed?
  • Can you, your child, and the school keep track of the times when your child needs to use his reliever medicine?
  • Is there a nurse at school all day, every day, who can help your child with his medicine if needed?
  • Is there a school policy about safely storing medicines and getting quick access to them when needed?
  • Are school staff, including teachers, coaches, and bus drivers, trained to handle asthma emergencies?

Recognizing asthma warning signs in school

If your child uses a peak flow meter, show your child’s teachers how to use it and ask them to use it when your child feels unwell. Mark your child’s normal peak flow level on the flow meter and teach the teachers what the green, yellow, and red zones mean.

Give your child’s teachers a list of your child’s asthma warning signs so they understand when to give reliever medicine and when to call 911.

Make sure your child’s teachers know whom to contact in case of an emergency. Give them alternative contact numbers. Be sure to let these contact persons know what to do in an emergency situation.

Avoiding asthma triggers in school

Give your child’s teachers a list of your child’s asthma triggers and explain why it is important for your child to avoid them in school. Tell them about your child’s allergies as well, including food allergies if any.

It may be helpful to ask the teachers to let your child avoid dust or any chores that involve dusting. Ask the teachers to let your child sit away from the blackboard. Your child should not clean blackboard erasers. The dust from chalk can trigger asthma.

If your child is allergic to pets or moulds, your child should avoid pets and plants in the classroom. In day care centres, carpets and mats used for activities and napping may be full of dust. Have your child bring his own mat, or ask the teachers to separate your child from other children’s mats.

Ask your child’s principal to tell you ahead of time when the school will be doing renovations or painting. Strong odours from the paints, fumes, and construction dust can trigger asthma. You can ask for your child to stay home during the first few days of construction, when the odours and dust will be heaviest. Make sure your child’s asthma is well controlled and that he has his asthma medicines before he goes back to school.

Monitor the weather conditions every day. During winter, make sure your child has enough clothes on to protect him from the cold. A scarf that can cover your child’s nose and mouth is very important if he is going outdoors during recess. On days when the air quality is bad or pollen levels are high, ask your child’s teacher to let your child stay indoors during recess.

Asthma and missed school days

If your child’s asthma is well controlled, your child should not miss school days because of it. But even with well-controlled asthma, your child may need to go for medical appointments more often than other children. This can mean that your child needs to miss some days of school.

Talk to your child’s teacher about how your child can make up missed work. Your child should not be penalized for missing school days because of asthma.

Ask your doctor about when your child can go to school and when your child should stay home because of asthma symptoms. Your doctor may give you some specific rules.

Sharon Dell, BEng, MD, FRCPC

Bonnie Fleming-Carroll, MN, ACNP, CAE

Jennifer Leaist, RN, BScN

Rishita Peterson, RN, BScN, MN

Gurjit Sangha, RN, MN

James Tjon, BScPhm, PharmD, RPh