How to Prepare for Kids’ Allergy and Asthma Attacks at School

How to Prepare for Kids’ Allergy and Asthma Attacks at School

Teachers and school staff should know what to do if your child has a reaction.

About 6.2 million U.S. children under the age of 18 have asthma, and around 5.6 million have food allergies. But not every school—or student—has a plan in place to deal with health emergencies like asthma attacks and allergic reactions.

According to a 2014 Northwestern University study of roughly 22,000 students, just 2 percent of those with asthma and about half with food allergies actually had an emergency health management plan to handle serious reactions. The odds of having a plan were even worse for children in minority groups and those from low-income families. Follow these four steps to make sure your child and their teachers are prepared.

1. Create a treatment plan.
Talk to your pediatrician to create the best management plan based on your child’s medical issue. Make sure it includes your contact information and the details of their condition, including a list of triggers and medications for routine or emergency situations.

2. Develop a written emergency plan. 
This should happen before the beginning of each new school year. Make sure the plan includes:

  • Where to find your child’s emergency medications and how to administer them
  • Your doctor’s contact information
  • A list of symptoms of a serious reaction
  • Instructions for the school to call 911 first in an emergency

Some schools require a signed medical permission form stating staff members can administer medication. Certain schools may ask for a copy of the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Emergency Care Plan (formerly the Food Allergy Action Plan), distributed by the non-profit organization Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE). If so, you can print it out, ask your pediatrician to sign it, and hand it to appropriate staff. Whatever the school requests, be sure you’ve filled out all of the necessary paperwork; many schools have the forms online, or you can ask the school nurse at open house.

3. Visit the school and staff.
Before school starts, schedule a visit with the teachers and school staff members your child will be in contact with the most. (It’s likely their classroom teacher can inform the cafeteria staff and class moms, too.) If your child is playing a sport, let the coaches know about their condition. And don’t forget to chat with your child’s bus driver on the first day of school, too. Walk through the school to check for any noticeable allergy triggers, such as dust in classrooms and carpets, class pets or mold in the bathrooms.

Discuss the treatment and emergency plans with all teachers so they are informed. If your child takes any medications on a daily or emergency basis, leave them with the school nurse, along with directions for administering. Or, depending on your child’s age and maturity, she can carry the meds herself.

4. Prepare your child.
Make sure your child knows how to get help and always has their medications on hand.

When your child is at school, they should focus on having fun and learning! Developing a plan like this—to both prevent issues from popping up and properly deal with any emergencies that do occur—will ensure that your child can focus on their academics, enjoy time with classmates and stay well. 

This article was updated on August 14, 2019.

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