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Updating Asthma Action Plan During Summer

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

With the beginning of school only a few weeks away, parents need to take action now to help reduce the number of school days that children miss because of asthma.

The average child with asthma will miss about eight days of school each year because of the disease. State health officials recommend families use the summer months to visit with their health care providers to review their child’s asthma medication and treatment options, commonly called an asthma action plan.

“Every year when students go back to school, we see a dramatic increase in the number of asthma cases in children,” said Peggy Gaddy, the state health department’s coordinator for asthma prevention and control. “Now is the time to make appointments to have children’s asthma action plans evaluated – before they start back to school.”

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America says asthma causes students to miss more days of school than any other chronic illness. Gaddy said the new environment, exposure to allergens brought in on fellow students’ clothes and other factors contribute to the higher incidence of asthma during school days. Having an effective action plan enables kids with asthma to maintain normal activity and prevents acute episodes.

“It is difficult to discuss an asthma action plan with the physician when a child is suffering from an asthma attack,” Gaddy said. “Talking to a doctor now will help prevent an attack and keep children with asthma in school longer.”

Health officials say an asthma action plan review can be scheduled with a normal checkup or well visit with a health care provider. However, even if a child has already had a well visit this year, most health insurance plans will cover an additional doctor’s appointment since asthma is a chronic disease.

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“We hope to raise parents’ awareness since they might be altering their children’s asthma treatments because of summertime conditions. Parents should review those treatments with their children’s physician and discuss what they will need to do when summer is over,” Gaddy said. “If parents are able to spend a little time with their children’s physician now, the kids will be more prepared to learn when they go back to school this fall.”

Parents should make sure their child’s asthma action plan contains:

* A list of medications the student takes, noting which ones need to be taken during school hours. The list should note when medications will be needed during school activities that are away from the campus and that are before or after regular school hours.

* A specific plan of action for school staff in case of an acute episode. The plan should include guidance for monitoring changes in the student’s breathing.

* A list of identified triggers that can make the student’s asthma worse.

* Emergency procedures and phone numbers for the student’s physician and parents or guardian.

The plan should be developed by a physician and signed by a parent and the physician, kept on file at school and renewed every year.

“Because everyone’s asthma is different, the action plan should be specific to each child’s needs,” Gaddy said.