Keeping Asthma In Check at School
School mornings are often challenging times for parents – getting kids dressed and ready for school, getting breakfast on the table, making sure they’re at school on time, all sometimes crammed into an hour or less.
If your child has asthma, the need to help administer a morning dose of an asthma controller medication, such as an inhaled corticosteroid, can add to the stress. If a daily dose is missed amid the hustle and bustle of the morning, it’s potentially dangerous.
Researchers at Children’s National Health System in Washington, D.C., recently studied a potential solution. What if the school nurse administered the daily asthma medication every morning – at school?
“We thought if we could have those morning doses administered by these medically trained individuals with great technique and regularity, then maybe we would see improved outcomes in children,” says Stephen Teach, MD, chair of the Department of Pediatrics at Children’s National Health System. “And we did, in a striking way.”
Dr. Teach and his colleagues studied 46 kindergarteners, elementary and middle school students across 18 Washington, D.C. public schools for 60 days. Twenty-one of the students received their daily inhaled corticosteroid dose at school while the rest continued to receive theirs at home.
The study results showed that students who received the dose at school missed 20 percent fewer school days and reported less asthma-related sleep loss than those students who received their dose at home.
The data suggests school-based therapy is not only feasible but can also lead to better health outcomes for students. Combined with other studies, Dr. Teach says “school-based therapy is increasingly becoming a very real and proven option for clinicians and families when medication adherence is a struggle.”
Since the study, which was published online in the Journal of Asthma last June, Dr. Teach and his colleagues have worked with school nurses and started to prescribe school-based doses of inhaled corticosteroids to families interested in receiving them.
Managing asthma and staying on track with medication is especially important at the start of the school year. Research shows that asthma-related hospitalizations and ER visits spike soon after children return to school.
It’s called the September Asthma Peak. A primary reason it occurs is due to greater exposure to cold viruses from other children, according to a University of Texas at Austin study from 2016. Children have been away from the classroom all summer and when they return, their immune systems are not as primed to fight viruses.
Cold viruses and respiratory illnesses are common asthma triggers, particularly among children.
Other reasons cited for the September Asthma Park include an increase in airborne ragweed pollen and greater exposure to indoor allergens such as mold, chalk dust and pet dander.
Stay on alert for the September Asthma Peak – schedule an appointment with your child’s doctor to review or develop an Asthma Action Plan, an individualized plan of prevention and treatment that lays out what to do if symptoms arise. And encourage healthy lifestyle choices (exercise, diet, getting enough sleep) and basic hygiene (cover coughs/sneezes, annual flu shot) to boost the immune system.