Asthma in the Classroom – What Does it Look Like?

 

Teachers are aware of so many needs in their classrooms; learning needs, social needs and even medical needs. But, what does asthma in the classroom look like? Chances are it doesn’t look like a child barely being able to breathe, gasping and struggling to take their next breath; it is usually more subtle than that. Here’s a look at the different types of asthma a teacher may see in their classroom:

Students with Well Controlled Asthma:

These children are the ones that look like everybody else, they don’t miss school due to asthma, they don’t need to go to the nurse to use their inhalers, and they are able to fully participate in all school activities. These children most likely have an intermittent form of asthma that is triggered by seasonal allergies, a virus or a certain known trigger. They also may have exercise-induced asthma. Here are some clinical indications:

• Symptoms
Less than 2 days a week but not more than once on each day

• Sleep disruptions
Less than once a month

• Full participation in a variety of activities, including sports and play

• Use of inhaler for symptom control
Less than 2 days a week

• Lung function
Greater than 80% of predicted or personal best

Students with Not Well Controlled Asthma:

These children may struggle with control of their asthma. They may miss the occasional school day related to their asthma; they may visit the nurse’s office more often and need their inhaler more frequently. These children may not be able to fully participate in physical activities without difficulty and may appear to shy away from activities so they do not have an asthma attack. Be sure to encourage the child to tell an adult when they are having difficulty breathing, allow them to visit the nurse for their inhaler and remind them to remain clam during the attack. Here are some clinical indications:

• Symptoms
More than twice a day

• Sleep disruptions
More than twice a month

• Limited participation in activities, including sports and play

• Use of inhaler for symptom control
More than 2 days a week

• Lung function
60% to 80% of predicted or personal best

Students with Poorly Controlled Asthma:

These are the children that are visibly struggling with asthma on a daily basis; they miss many school days related to their asthma and spend many days in the nurse’s office trying to regain control of their asthma. These children often look very tired and may seem as if they are not paying attention when in fact they are just so tired from being up all night with asthma symptoms that they cannot focus on their school work. These children will not engage in any school activities for fear of an asthma attack. These children should be referred to a specialist for greater management of their asthma symptoms and should have an asthma action plan on file with the nurse. Here are some clinical indications:

• Symptoms
Throughout the day

• Sleep disruptions
More than twice a week

• Extremely limited participation in a variety of activities, including sports and play

• Use of inhaler for symptom control
Several times a day

• Lung function
Less than 60% of predicted or personal best

What to do in the Event of an Asthma Attack:

1. Remain calm and encourage slow breathing

2. Follow the child’s Asthma Action Plan (AAP) for mediation administration

3. Notify the parents

4. Call 911 if medication is not relieving symptoms or child does not have an AAP or quick relief inhaler!

All teachers and staff should be aware of the children with any form of asthma and should be aware of what the procedure is for taking care of a child that is having an asthma attack. Knowing what to do in the event of an asthma emergency could be the difference between life and death for your student!

Louisa Gallagher RN, AE-C

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