GUIDE TO ASTHMA
This is a publication
of the now defunct Allergy/Asthma Association of Alberta. It was
prepared in cooperation with the Alberta Children's Hospital, Calgary
and funded by the Wild Rose Foundation, An Alberta Government Lottery
What is Asthma?
Asthma is the most common
chronic childhood ailment, affecting approximately ten to fourteen
percent of all school age children.
It is a condition where
the airways become obstructed due to a spasm of the smooth muscle
around the airways, inflammation, and increased mucous production.
The symptoms are reversible but can be life-threatening if not promptly
and adequately treated. Each child is individual; the triggers that
affect them, the severity of their symptoms, and their response
to medications are all unique.
Asthma is treated by a doctor
through an individually tailored routine of medications, dietary manipulation
and environmental control.
Many things or combinations
of things can cause an asthma attack. These are called triggers, and
each child will have triggers that are unique to that child. Some
potential triggers in a school environment are:
- viral illness, colds
- cold air
- chalk dust
- scented markers or
- sudden temperature
- animals of any kind
- fresh paint
- mold, mildew
Signs to Watch For
The child may or may not
be able to tell you he is having trouble with his asthma due to the
severity of the symptoms, or he may not want to tell you for fear
of being considered different from his peers.
Here are some signs to watch for:
- inability to
- hunched shoulders
- child that
suddenly becomes quiet, pale and withdrawn
- child may or
may not have wheeze or noisy breaths
- child may become
medication not relieving symptoms
breathing, noticeably having to work at each breath
at base of neck pulling in with each breath
bluish colour around mouth, lips, nail beds or ear lobes
The last four signs indicate
serious breathing problems. The parents and the teacher should discuss
a crisis plan to deal with these symptoms. If no alternate plan
has been discussed, call 911. Make sure the child has used his medication.
Inform the child's parents if you are noticing symptoms or if the
child requires medication more often.
Ask the child to speak a full sentence. If he is unable to do this
with one breath, the child is in distress.
Dealing with the Asthmatic
- Discuss the child's
condition fully with the parents. Work with the parents to establish
what level of physical activity the child can cope with, and what
will work best for that particular child in the school routine.
- BELIEVE THE CHILD.
Do not make the child wait for medication. The child should not
be compared to another child with asthma. The child's symptoms
should never be belittled.
When at all possible, the
child should be allowed to keep his medications with him at his desk.
If this is not possible, then they should be easily and quickly accessible.
Some children with severe asthma should wear their medications in
a waist pack that is carried with them at all times. An extra set
of medications should be kept in a safe place in the school.
Medications may cause
behaviour changes in the child such as poor attention span, tremors,
irritability and lethargy. If these symptoms are causing a disruption
in the child's learning experience, then this should be discussed
with the parents and a possible change in medications can be made
by the doctor.
- Encourage physical
activities; the level of activity the child can cope with may
change daily, depending on the child's current condition.
- The child should
not be pushed to go beyond his limits.
- The child should
not be forced to continue an activity if he says he is beginning
to have problems.
- Short bursts of activity
are easier to tolerate than long endurance exercises.
- The child should
not be restricted from activities without fully discussing this
with the parents and the doctor.
- Inform the parents
in advance if any activities involving food or animals of any
kind are being planned.
- Plan alternative
activities for the class or for the child if the original activity
poses a significant health risk. The child should not just be
- It may be helpful
to have the parents go through the classroom and identify potential
triggers before school starts.
- Encourage class discussion
about asthma. If the other children learn about asthma, they will
more easily accept the child with asthma.
- Asthma is the most
common chronic childhood ailment.
- Asthma can be life-threatening
if not promptly and adequately treated.
- Potential triggers
and responses to those triggers are varied and unique to each
- Severity of symptoms
and response to medication is unique to each child.
- A close working relationship
with the parents is essential to an informed, well-managed, safe
- Believe the child.
Children seldom fake an asthma attack; underlying factors may
be affecting the child and his asthma. If you feel there is a
problem with the child, discuss this with the parents; professional
intervention may be necessary to deal with these factors.
- Do not lose sight
of the fact that the child with asthma is still a child. Children
with asthma may have a fragile self-esteem. Being singled out
as "different" from others; being excluded from activities; and
having to ask for medication in front of peers - all these are
factors that contribute to the child turning his chronic, reversible
condition into a disability.
- Encouragement, support
and a good understanding of the problems facing children with
asthma will go a long way in the positive emotional growth of
these children at school. Teachers have an extremely important
role in this development.
|Asthma Clinic, Alberta
1820 Richmond Road SW
Calgary, AB T2T 5C7
by referral only
Foothills Hospital (adults & teens)
Dr. R. Cowie's office:
Prairies/NWT/Nunavut Regional Coordinator
16531 - 114 Street
Edmonton, AB T5X 3V6
Phone/fax: (780) 456-6651
|AAIA National Office
Box 100, Toronto, Ontario
Phone (416) 679-9521 or
Fax: (416) 679-9524
of Use: The information
on this site does not constitute medical advice and is for your
general information only. We cannot be held responsible for anything
you could possibly do or say because of information on this site.
Consult your family physician or allergist for specific questions