Back To School With Asthma And Allergies: Is Perfect Attendance Possible?
Perfect attendance is a real challenge for schoolchildren with asthma and allergies. Even so, many doctors, school nurses, and parents believe it’s well within reach for the millions of children heading back to school with these conditions.
“Perfect attendance is all about preparation and prevention,” says Nancy Sander, president and founder of Allergy & Asthma Network Mothers of Asthmatics (AANMA), the leading patient education nonprofit organization. “Before the first bell rings, work together with your doctor to identify what causes flare-ups and craft a personalized asthma and/or anaphylaxis action plan.”
Interviewed in the fall issue of Allergy & Asthma Today, AANMA’s quarterly magazine (http://www.aanma.org/publication),Stanley Fineman, MD, MBA, past president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, says perfect attendance is “absolutely achievable” for kids with asthma and allergies although it doesn’t happen without individualized planning and effort.
“It depends on the severity of the child’s asthma and the type of medication needed,” Dr. Fineman says. “The goal is to find out what is causing symptoms, reduce exposures, minimize the impact of symptoms on a child’s normal activities, and ensure a good quality of life.”
Studies show that regular school attendance leads to better academic performance by students. Chronic absenteeism interrupts the learning process and interferes with peer acceptance.
“Children with asthma and allergies can strive for perfect attendance, but it’s important to keep the emphasis on making healthy choices,” says Sally Schoessler, MEd, BSN, RN, director of nursing education at National Association of School Nurses. “We want the child to feel well, be successful, and fully participate in their educational experience.”
“Certainly you don’t want to send a child who is ill to school,” says Sandler. “Knowing when to keep them home is oftentimes a judgment call and something you should discuss with a doctor.”
AANMA offers these five back-to-school tips:
- *Submit copies of all completed school health forms, including the asthma and/or anaphylaxis action plan, to the school nurse.
- *Schedule meetings with the school nurse, teachers, coaches, and administrators to develop partners in your child’s healthcare at school.
- *Renew medications and make sure your child knows to use them at the first sign of symptoms.
- *Get a flu shot and wash hands frequently to avoid catching a cold or flu virus.
- *Teach kids how to correctly and safely use the inhaler and/or epinephrine auto-injector they carry in their backpack and keep as a backup at school.
All 50 states protect students’ rights to carry and self-administer asthma inhalers at school and 49 do the same for epinephrine auto-injectors. Twenty-eight states have passed legislation requiring schools to have anaphylaxis emergency preparedness plans that include maintaining supplies of epinephrine auto-injectors.
Follow the status of anaphylaxis emergency preparedness laws in your state with AANMA’s USAnaphylaxis™ Map, an interactive web tracking tool available at http://www.aanma.org/USAnaphylaxis. It also includes links to AANMA’s Anaphylaxis Community Experts (ACE) Teams who provide free training programs for educators, parents and policymakers. For more information, call 800-878-4403.