Lung Association: Back to School Often Means Back to Asthma for School-Age Children

Seven “Back to School” Tips for Caregivers to Help Children with Asthma

ALBANY, NY (08/27/2008)(readMedia)-- The American Lung Association of New York today reminded parents and caregivers across New York State that when children return to school, they often return to dealing with asthma-related issues. Annually, school-age children with asthma miss almost 13 million days in the classroom, making asthma-related illness one of the most common reasons kids are absent from school.

"Nearly 11 percent of children headed back to school this fall have asthma," said Louise Vetter, Chief Executive Officer. "Children with asthma can thrive when asthma is diagnosed early and managed according to the child's needs."

To minimize asthma's grip on the upcoming school year, parents should be aware that a new government regulation is forcing manufacturers to phase out production of a common type of inhaler, often called a chlorofluorocarbons (CFC) inhaler. By December 31, 2008, CFC inhalers will not be available to the consumer public and will be replaced by a hydrofluoroalkane (HFA) inhaler.

The FDA has found that HFA inhalers are safe and just as effective as their CFC counterparts. One significant difference is that HFA inhalers do not contain ozone-depleting chemicals found in CFC inhalers.

Across New York State, the American Lung Association of New York fights asthma through education, programs, advocacy and research. To that end, we offer educational programs to help children, their parents and teachers manage their asthma.

One such program is Open Airways For Schools (OAS), the American Lung Association's elementary school education curriculum for children with asthma, ages 8-11. OAS is administered throughout the New York City school system and at school districts in Broome, Cayuga, Chenango, Clinton, Delaware, Dutchess, Jefferson, Livingston, Monroe, Nassau, Oneida, Onondaga, Orange, Suffolk, Ulster, Wayne, and Westchester counties.

OAS teaches children with asthma to become "asthma experts" with improved knowledge of asthma management skills necessary for them lead healthier, active lives. A key part of the program is the American Lung Association's facilitation of asthma-care partnerships involving school nurses and educational staff as well as physicians, families and Lung Association volunteers.

On average, OAS graduates miss two fewer days of school following the program than students with asthma who do not take the program, due to an improved understanding of their disease. According to a recent evaluation, OAS graduates increased their asthma management skills by 17 percent. In New York City alone, over 45,000 students have graduated from the program since its introduction in 1996.

In preparation for the school year ahead, the American Lung Association also urges parents and caregivers who have children with asthma to complete the following checklist:

1) Schedule Asthma Check-up Doctor's Appointment

Even if your child's asthma is well-managed, scheduling a check up with your pediatrician is critical to ensuring your child's asthma continues to be effectively controlled. This is also an opportunity to evaluate medications and update Asthma Action Plans.

2) Confirm Medicines Are Up-to-Date and Fill Prescriptions

If your child uses an inhaler, make sure you have a current prescription for an HFA inhaler. Check your medicine cabinet to ensure your child's asthma prescriptions have sufficient refills available and have not expired.

3) Know About Prescription Assistance Services

No one should have to do without their asthma medications because of financial need. Two organizations are available to help. The Partnership for Prescription Assistance can be reached by calling 1-888-4PPA-NOW. Rx Outreach also provides information on their website:

4) Asthma Action Plan

All students with asthma need to have a written Asthma Action Plan that details personal information about the child's asthma symptoms, medications, any physical activity limitations and provides specific instructions about what to do if an asthma attack does not improve with prescribed medication.

5) Visit Your Child's School Nurse and Teachers

All of the student's teachers, coaches, as well as the school nurse and/or office need to have a current copy of their Asthma Action Plan. Discuss with your child's teachers specific triggers and typical symptoms so that they can be prepared to effectively assist your child should an asthma attack occur during the school day.

6) Advocate for Your Child

It is also important to learn if your child's school allows students to carry and independently administer their asthma medication. Some schools require students to carry a note from their doctor. Contact the school to learn what steps need to be taken to have your child carry and use their inhaler if recommended by their doctor.

7) Know Your School's Asthma Emergency Plan

Ensure that your child's school knows how to contact you in case of an emergency. It is also important for parents to know the school's past history of dealing with asthma episodes. Parents should confirm that school staff, including after-school coaches and bus drivers, have been trained in responding to asthma emergencies.

For additional information on asthma and children, the Open Airways For Schools program, or to download an Asthma Action Plan for your child in English or Spanish, visit