Asthma is a leading chronic illness among children and adolescents in the United States. It is also one of the leading causes of school absenteeism. On average, in a classroom of 30 children, about 3 are likely to have asthma. Low-income populations, minorities, and children living in inner cities experience more emergency department visits, hospitalizations, and deaths due to asthma than the general population.1
When children and adolescents are exposed to things in the environment—such as dust mites and tobacco smoke—an asthma episode can occur. These things are called asthma triggers. Asthma symptoms can be controlled by avoiding triggers and taking medications prescribed by a health care provider, if needed. Asthma is common but treatable: using treatment based on current scientific knowledge reduces illness and future episodes.2
For information on the causes and treatment for asthma, visit Learn How to Control Asthma.
Asthma-friendly schools are those that make the effort to create safe and supportive learning environments for students with asthma. They have policies and procedures that allow students to successfully manage their asthma. Research and case studies that looked at ways to best manage asthma in schools found that successful school-based asthma programs:
- Establish strong links with asthma care clinicians to ensure appropriate and ongoing medical care.
- Target students who are the most affected by asthma at school to identify and intervene with those in greatest need.
- Get administrative buy–in and build a team of enthusiastic people, including a full-time school nurse, to support the program.
- Use a coordinated, multi–component, and collaborative approach that includes school nursing services, asthma education for students, and professional development for school staff.
- Provide appropriate school health services for students with asthma, ensuring that students take their medicines and learn to use them when appropriate.
- Provide asthma education for students with asthma and awareness programs for students, school staff, parents, and families.
- Provide a safe and healthy school environment to reduce asthma triggers.
- Offer safe and enjoyable physical education and activities for students with asthma.
- Support evaluation of school–based programs and use adequate and appropriate outcome measures.