Preventing Back-to-School Asthma Attacks

boy with asthma inhaler

Back-to-school season is a risky time for students with asthma. Allergens in the air and germs in the classroom can irritate airways and cause asthma attacks.

“September and October are the peak months for emergency room visits and admissions to the hospital for children with asthma,” said MU Health Care pediatric nurse practitioner Benjamin Francisco, PhD. “Asthma attacks can be life-threatening. Every year, children in Missouri die after having severe attacks, but these tragedies are preventable.”

Francisco is director of Asthma Ready® Communities, a nonprofit organization that offers evidence-based educational programs for children with asthma, their families and health professionals. To prevent back-to-school asthma attacks, he suggested parents follow these three tips:

  • Be a care coach: Parents should ensure their children routinely take their medications and properly use their inhalers.
    ben francisco
    Benjamin Francisco, PhD

    “Most asthma patients take two types of medications: a control medication they use at home, and a rescue inhaler they bring with them to school,” Francisco said. “The best way to prevent asthma attacks is to make sure your child takes his or her control medicine twice a day every day. But it’s also important to understand that taking inhaled medications is not like swallowing a pill. It is a special skill that requires practice and coaching.”

    MU Health Care’s pediatric pulmonary medicine team teaches asthma patients and their parents proper inhalation techniques to ensure asthma medications reach the child’s lungs and don’t just get swallowed and end up in the stomach. Call our clinic (573-882-6921) to schedule an appointment if you have not received this valuable guidance.
  • Know the warning signs: Asthma attacks commonly creep up on kids. Students can be extremely short of breath before anyone realizes they urgently require medical attention. Parents can stop or minimize the severity of asthma attacks by giving daily control medications, watching for asthma warning signs and visiting our clinic for regular asthma checkups.
    “If a child with asthma develops a persistent cough or begins to struggle to sleep through the night due to respiratory problems, he or she might be showing signs of worsening asthma,” Francisco said. “Also, if your child reaches for a rescue inhaler several times a week to stop breathing problems, his or her asthma is not well controlled. Schedule an appointment so we can help get things back under control.”
  • Inform the school: “It is very important for children to have trusted people wherever they are,” Francisco said. “At school, that should include teachers, coaches and the school nurse. Make sure people know your child has asthma so they can help keep an eye out for breathing problems and initiate care as soon as possible.”
    Over the past decade, Asthma Ready® Communities has worked with many schools across Missouri to ensure they have resources available to monitor students with asthma and intervene during emergencies. Contact the organization if your child’s school needs asthma training or equipment.

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