Creating an Asthma Friendly School
Did you know that asthma affects approximately 1 in 5 children in Ontario and is the leading cause of hospital admissions, emergency room visits and school absenteeism for children? It’s important to create an asthma friendly school to support students with asthma participate fully in school activities and opportunities.
While not everyone with asthma shares the same triggers, physical activity is a common asthma trigger because of rapid through-the-mouth breathing that occurs during vigorous activities. However, exercise is part of a healthy lifestyle and students should not use asthma as an excuse to avoid participating in physical activity (except when the participant is experiencing asthma symptoms or suffering from a cold that is worsening their asthma).
To celebrate World Asthma Awareness Month and help you and your school implement the requirements set out in Ryan’s Law, 2015, we’ve put together tips on how to create an asthma friendly school (taken from Ophea’s Creating Asthma Friendly Schools manual):
- Know your school board/school/ policy related to asthma.
- Know which students have asthma and/use inhaler medication. Keep a copy of the completed Individual Student Asthma Management Plan form (available at www.on.lung.ca) for each student with asthma in the classroom
- Allow students with asthma easy access to asthma medication
- Be prepared to identify and handle worsening asthma and asthma emergencies (download or order Managing Asthma Attacks posters and reference sheets from The Lung Association)
- Identify and reduce common asthma triggers within the school
- Encourage students with asthma to participate in physical activity and play
- Provide opportunities for asthma education for staff, students with asthma, parents/guardians and the general student body
- Collaborate with community partners to create an asthma friendly school
Off School Grounds:
- Be aware of potential asthma triggers that may exist on field trips
- Take the Individual Student Asthma Management Plan forms in case of worsening asthma
- Notify parents/guardians well in advance of school trips - provide the location, possible triggers, and describe the activities that will occur
- If overnight field trips are planned, students with asthma may need to bring additional asthma medications that are normally kept at home but will be used on the trip
- Ensure there is a way to contact Emergency Medical Services (911) should an emergency arise
- Ensure field trip personnel are prepared to handle worsening asthma and asthma emergencies
- Ensure students have easy access to their asthma reliever medication
We hope these tips on how to foster a positive environment for students with asthma help you breathe a little easier.
For additional tips and information on preventing and managing asthma in your school and community check out Ophea’s resources, including;
- Creating Asthma Friendly Schools Manual
- Creating Asthma Friendly Environments for Children & Youth Manual
- Asthma in Schools: What Educators Need to Know Resource
- Asthma and Physical Activity: What Physical Educators and Coaches Need to Know Resource
- The Basics of Asthma, Allergies and Anaphylaxis factsheet
- Managing Asthma In Our Schools DVD
 Colin D’Cunha, Chief Medical Officer of Health, Taking Action on Asthma, Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, 2002.