Asthma Education Helping Our Students Breathe Easier
What is Asthma?
Asthma is a chronic inflammation of the lungs with reversible episodes of obstruction, caused by an increased reaction of the airways to various triggers
Breathing problems usually happen in “ attacks ” but the inflammation underlying asthma is continuous.
(American Lung Association [ALA], 2007)
Prevalence Asthma is the most common chronic disorder in childhood, currently affecting an estimated 6.8 million children under 18 years; of which 4.1 million suffered from an asthma attack or episode in 2006. (ALA, 2007)
Effects on Education
Asthma is one of the leading causes of school absenteeism; in 2003, asthma accounted for an estimated 12.8 million lost school days in children with an asthma attack in the previous year.
What is an Asthma “ Attack ” ?
An asthma attack is a series of events that results in narrowed airways. These include: swelling of the lining, tightening of the muscle, and increased secretion of mucus in the airway. The narrowed airway is responsible
for the difficulty in
the familiar "wheeze".
Allergic asthma is the most common form of asthma.
Allergic asthma is triggered by inhaling allergens such as dust mites, pet dander, pollens, mold, etc.
Through a complex reaction, these allergens cause the passages in the airways of the lungs to become inflamed and swollen.
This results in coughing, wheezing and other asthma symptoms.
(Asthma Overview, 2005)
Non-allergic asthma is also characterized by airway obstruction and inflammation
Non-allergic asthma is triggered by other factors such as anxiety, stress, exercise, cold air, dry air, hyperventilation, smoke viruses or other irritants.
In non-allergic asthma, the immune system is not involved in the reaction, as with allergic reaction.
Limit carpeting and vacuum those existing carpets/mats frequently
Frequent hand washing to prevent spread of colds
Inhaler use before gym (if ordered by MD)
Exposure Reduction (continued)
Students with asthma should be assigned seats away from blackboards
Never assign them cleaning chores
Use damp clothes/mops to wipe all exposed areas at least once per week
Clean any obvious mold with diluted bleach
Pick non-furry animals for class pets
Report any maintenance issues immediately – pest droppings, odors, temperature extremes
Early Warning Signs
Asthma episodes almost never occur without warning.
Early symptoms can include: coughing, chest tightness, feeling very tired. Airways narrow slowly, so symptoms may not be felt until the airways are badly blocked.
A simple device called a peak flow meter can detect narrowing in your airways hours, or even days , before you feel symptoms.
The key to controlling your asthma is taking your medicine at the earliest possible sign of worsening.
The good news is that using your peak flow meter should mean fewer symptoms, fewer calls to the doctor, and fewer hospital visits!
Additional Warning Signs
Shortness of breath
Chest discomfort (hurts)
Cannot catch breath
Neck ‘ feels ’ funny
Doesn ’ t feel well
Itchy neck, chin
Clipped speech, short choppy sentences
(Asthma Friendly Schools, 2009)
Asthma and Exercise 1. Pre-medicate as prescribed by physician 2. Ensure that rescue medication is readily available 3. Ensure long warm-up and cool-down 4. Monitor the environment for potential triggers (change environments if necessary) 5. Permit student to monitor breathing status using a Peak Flow Meter (AFSI, 2007)
Teacher ’ s Role in Asthma Management
Reduce Exposure to asthma triggers in the classroom
Notice when students are coughing or showing other “ warning signs ”
Be supportive – approach and support in a calm, reassuring manner
Call or send for the school nurse
(Asthma Friendly Schools, 2009)
First Aid for Exercise-Induced Asthma
If, during physical activity, you notice that a student is having difficulty breathing, coughing frequently, or wheezing (noisy when breathing out), it may be asthma:
• Follow the school protocol to NOTIFY THE SCHOOL NURSE if medication is not available or if symptoms are not resolved within 5 to10 minutes after using the inhaler.
STOP the student ’ s activity and encourage the student to sit and rest.
• Call 911 immediately if student requests or is in severe distress — struggling to breathe, lips blue, unable to walk or talk.
• Follow the designated asthma management plan
• Never let a child with breathing problems leave the gym or field alone .
• If symptoms resolve, permit students to resume activity when they are ready, according to their asthma management plan.
• Follow protocol to inform parents of the event and document actions taken.
Common Asthma Treatment
There are two groups of asthma medications:
Long term controllers - do not provide relief right away, but rather help to lessen the frequency and severity of episodes over time (ie. Singulair, Advair)
2. Quick relievers (rescue inhalers )- used to control the immediate symptoms of an asthma episode (ie. Albuterol )
(Asthma Overview, 2005)
Summary Asthma is a chronic illness that is a growing problem in America. In a classroom of 30 students, two are likely to have asthma. Asthma can be life-threatening; it causes breathing problems called asthma “ attacks ” or “ episodes ” that range from mild to serious. Asthma affects absenteeism and productivity, and it demands an immense amount of time and attention of our school nurses. With your help, we can better recognize and reduce the symptoms of asthma in our students. (ALA, 2007) Thank you!