Leaving your child at nursery or school for the first time is a big step for every parent. And when your child has asthma or suspected asthma, it can be even harder to let them go.
Our advice can help you make sure your child’s asthma is looked after, and stop it getting in the way of school or nursery life.
Making sure your child stays safe with their asthma at school or nursery can feel a bit daunting.
Some parents tell us they worry about coming across as paranoid or over-protective, but it’s important to make sure the school or nursery knows all about your child’s asthma so you feel reassured that they’ll be safe.
Here are some key things to do, whether your child's at nursery, primary school or secondary school.
Find out who will have responsibility for your child’s asthma
Your child’s school or nursery should decide who has overall responsibility for looking after your child’s asthma. This could be their teacher, keyworker, a member of support staff like a teaching assistant, or their head of year.
Some schools also have access to a school nurse, and they can be very helpful in making sure your child’s school knows how to support them with their asthma.
If your child goes to a childminder, you might find it helpful to read our expert tips on leaving your child in other people’s care.
Book a meeting to talk through your child's asthma needs
Schools are busy places. And it might feel like your child's teacher or keyworker is never free. Ask them when a good time would be to talk to them, when they're not rushed or too busy. This is about you making sure they have the information they need to keep your child safe in school, so it's helping them as well as you.
You might want to check if other people can be there too, like the school nurse if there is one, or the headteacher.
If your child is old enough, you might want to bring them along too.
You could use this meeting to:
- talk staff through your child’s written asthma action plan, and give them a copy to keep
- let staff know what your child's usual triggers are, for example, going out to play if it's cold, getting stressed or excited, running around
- explain how asthma affects your child, including their symptoms, and the signs that they need to use their reliever inhaler (usually blue), such as wheezing, difficulty breathing, and a tight chest
- make sure they know how to contact you if your child has any asthma symptoms at school or nursery, for example if they’ve needed to use their reliever inhaler, and in an emergency
- ask how the school or nursery would like you to let them know any updates about your child’s asthma
- ask about the school or nursery’s general medical conditions policy. This covers how they will care for children with conditions like asthma
- find out what the school's attendance policy is, and talk through any concerns you may have about times when your child is too unwell to come to school
- find out what training staff have had, or will have, about asthma
- check that all relevant staff, including lunchtime supervisors and supply teachers, know how to look after your child’s asthma
- find out how your child will be included in, and kept safe during, special activities like sports day and school trips.
Our asthma nurse specialists are just a call away on 0300 222 5800 (9am – 5pm; Mon – Fri).
Ask about an Individual Healthcare Plan
Some children with medical conditions like asthma have an Individual Healthcare Plan (IHP).
This sets out key points about your child’s asthma, like their symptoms, medications and what to do in an emergency, so the school knows how to support them.
Not all children with asthma need an IHP, but it’s a good idea to have one if your child’s asthma symptoms often get worse which could lead to an emergency situation like an asthma attack.
Manage your child’s medicines at school or nursery
- Make sure your child’s inhaler is in date, and kept in the original box with the prescription label attached and instructions included.
- Make sure your child knows where their inhaler is kept – it shouldn’t be locked away.
- Show the teacher or keyworker your child’s reliever inhaler and explain how to use it.
- Explain that if your child has a spacer, they must always use it as it helps make their inhaler more effective.
- If your child needs to take any extra medicines during school or nursery hours, make sure you've given written consent.
- If your child’s school keeps spare emergency reliever inhalers, find out where they’re kept. Your child may need to use one if they can’t use their own inhaler for any reason.
- Ask how often the school checks inhalers to make sure they're still in date.
Plan for asthma attacks
Your child’s teacher or keyworker, and other key staff, need to know the signs that your child may be having an asthma attack, and when to call 999.
Your child’s written asthma action plan should list asthma attack symptoms and step-by-step instructions on what to do.
Make sure staff understand that your child mustn't be left alone without an adult present until they’re feeling better.
Your child shouldn't be sent to get their own inhaler - someone needs to bring it to them.
As your child gets older, they’ll take more responsibility for managing their own asthma.
You’ll need to make sure they:
- check that their reliever inhaler is in their bag before leaving for school every day and that they can get hold of it when they need it, for example during PE
- know if their school has spare reliever inhalers in case they lose or forget their own
- know when they need to use their reliever inhaler
- recognise the symptoms of an asthma attack and know when they need to ask somebody to call an ambulance.
If you’re worried that PE lessons may trigger your child's asthma:
- tell their PE teacher or sports coach if they’re having symptoms, for example during the hay fever season or if they’ve got a cold
- make sure their reliever inhaler is accessible at all times
- encourage your child to warm up before taking part in PE or sports
- make sure your child and their teacher know they should stop exercising if they start to get any asthma symptoms, take their reliever inhaler and wait until their symptoms have gone before starting the activity again.
On sports day, bear in mind that your child may have extra triggers such as excitement and exposure to pollen.
Every September, there’s a rise in the number of children in the UK who are rushed to hospital due to their asthma.
It’s important that your child continues to take their regular asthma medicines as prescribed over the summer and when the new term starts so that they stay protected. See our back to school asthma advice.
Here’s how you can help your child prevent asthma affecting their results:
- Deal with stress: this can be a trigger for asthma. If you’re worried about your child’s stress levels, speak to the school, or your GP, about how they can help.
- Manage hay fever: pollen is a common trigger for asthma, and hay fever is worse during the summer months, when many children take exams. Read our advice on coping with hay fever.
- Make sure your child takes their medication as prescribed.