Your child’s school needs detailed written instructions specific to your child’s medical needs and the appropriate medications to handle any concerns that may arise while your child is at school. You and your child’s doctor can help provide this information.

Not all children who use inhalers or nebulizers have the diagnosis of asthma. Some children outgrow asthma-type symptoms and are not labeled asthmatics. Doctors may call your child’s symptoms reactive airway disease, allergy-induced asthma, exercise-induced asthma or actual asthma. Many of these diagnoses are treated similarly when there is a flare up of symptoms. Some children need asthma and allergy medicines continuously to control their symptoms; others need them only once in a while. This depends on how severe children's asthma or allergies are.

What about food allergies? Some children with food allergies develop a rash when they eat certain foods, while others can have trouble breathing or swallowing. What if your child accidentally eats something at the class party that he is allergic to? Does your child’s school have medications and instructions to handle this situation?

Children with histories of asthma-type symptoms need an asthma action plan, and children with food allergies need a food action plan. These should be kept at school (be sure to review your school’s medication policy) and at home. Your child’s doctor can help you get these forms and guide you on what medications should be kept at school. 

Your child’s back-to-school list should include: 

  • A visit to the doctor to discuss asthma symptoms or food allergies and to create an action plan. Even if your child’s condition is well controlled, work  with your child’s pediatrician or allergist to evaluate medications.
  • An asthma action plan—This written document from the doctor shows the type of medication used to treat asthma or breathing concerns, how often it should be administered, and what to do in an emergency.
  • A rescue inhaler or nebulizer medication that can be left at school (albuterol or Xopenex). Always keep an inhaler or nebulizer medication at home, as well.
  • A spacer device that connects to the inhaler and helps get medicine into the lungs. Keep one at home, too.
  • A food allergy action plan—This written document from the doctor describes which medication to administer depending on the symptoms that develop.
  • Epinephrine or EpiPen®—if your child has had a serious allergic reaction in the past, this should be readily available at school, as well at home. Benadryl® should also be kept at school and at home.
  • Inform teachers and school cafeteria staff about which foods need to be avoided if your child has food allergies.
  • Permission forms from you allowing school officials to administer medications.

Being prepared for school can make a big difference in keeping your child’s asthma and food allergies well controlled.

This article was written by Diane Williams, RN, a pediatric nurse on the St. Louis Children’s Hospital Answer Line.


Expert Advice