It’s that time of year again, and families are getting ready for the new school year. With children returning to school after months or even a year of disrupted academic schedules, it’s essential to ensure they have everything they need to succeed.
If you’re a parent of a child with asthma, you can help your child prepare for the school year and reduce their asthma attack risk by taking some simple steps. Consider creating a personal back-to-school supply list for your child that includes all the necessary items for managing their asthma, and give the list to the child’s teacher and school nurse at the beginning of the school year.
Childhood asthma rates are on the rise
Asthma is a common condition that affects people of all ages, but it is especially prevalent in children. According to Asthma Canada, asthma rates have been rising in Canada for the past few decades, and childhood asthma is now one of the most common chronic conditions among kids. The condition is estimated to affect more than 850,000 children in Canada alone.
What’s more, the COVID-19 pandemic has made asthma even more complicated. Health Canada reports that people with asthma are at an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19, and many people living with asthma have found that their symptoms have worsened during the pandemic. While there is no cure for asthma, it can be controlled with medication and avoidance of triggers. However, children with asthma may still experience occasional symptoms or flare-ups.
What items should be on your child’s back-to-school supply list if they have asthma?
- A personal supply of medication: Make sure your child has a personal supply of asthma medication, such as an inhaler or nebulizer, at school; asthma flare-ups can happen unexpectedly, so it’s important to have medication on hand in case of an emergency, including an extra rescue inhaler and extra batteries for their nebulizer
- A written asthma action plan from your child’s doctor: Work with your child’s doctor to develop a written action plan that outlines what to do in case of an asthma attack; include a list of triggers and how to avoid them and signs and symptoms of an asthma attack; the plan should be shared with the school nurse and other staff members who are responsible for your child’s care; reviewing your child’s needs with a teacher or teacher’s aides is also essential to ensure that in an emergency, the people at school will be aware of what is happening
- An EpiPen: If your child is allergic to something that could trigger an asthma attack (such as pollen, dust, or pet dander), make sure they have an EpiPen with them at all times; EpiPens are a life-saving medication that can be used in an emergency; also ensure your school is aware of your children’s condition and that they have an extra EpiPen at the school and check the dates as they expire after 12 months; many group plans will cover the cost of the EpiPens if your doctor has written a prescription
- A clean spacer: A clean spacer is essential for children who use inhalers; spacers help to ensure that the medication is delivered directly to the lungs, where it is needed most
- A trigger-free environment: Help your child avoid triggers by ensuring their school environment is as free from triggers as possible; this may include things like removing carpets from the classroom or making sure there are no pets in the school building
- Make sure your child’s asthma is well controlled: This means working with your child’s doctor to ensure they are taking the correct medications and understanding how to use them properly
- Ensure your child is up to date on all their immunizations: Some children may be lagging on their scheduled immunizations due to the pandemic; up-to-date immunizations are critical in asthma prevention; also, vaccines are now mandatory for a child to attend school; each province has an on-line guide, for example, immunization against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis and polio is required by law for all children attending school in Ontario, unless exempted.
- Take steps to avoid becoming infected with COVID-19: This is especially important now, and children with asthma should take extra care to avoid becoming infected with the virus and should follow all Health Canada guidelines for preventing COVID-19
With essential items to keep them feeling well on hand, your child with asthma will be able to attend school without worries and be prepared for anything that comes their way this school year!
If you need help getting started, Asthma Canada has a great checklist that you can use. In addition, your child’s doctor can also guide what items should be included on your child’s list and your Cowan Benefits consultant can confirm what medications and vaccines are eligible under your benefits program.