Asthma at school
It is important for teachers and non-teaching staff to be aware of the possible risks for an asthmatic child and of the potential seriousness of asthma attacks. Details of the child’s medication; information about foods and medicines to which the child may be allergic; and instructions regarding emergency situations should be provided by the child’s doctor.
- Children with asthma should always have their medicine with them, both on normal school days and on school trips.
- The school canteen should be made aware of special dietary requirements so that they can avoid the use of certain ingredients during the preparation of meals.
- Constant and thorough cleaning of school areas is important, particularly in the interests of preventing the spread of mould and mites.
Asthma and sport at school
The child’s doctor should be asked for advice regarding participation in school sports activities (e.g. appropriate environment and the possible need for preparatory exercises). For some individuals who suffer from asthma, physical exercise may cause exercise-induced asthma attacks or bronchial spasms. However, when correctly treated, asthma does not present a major barrier to physical exercise, but will, in fact, improve overall respiratory function. The school sports teacher should therefore encourage asthmatic children’s participation in sports lessons. Physical exercise should only be ruled out among those with severe and persistent asthma, or during an asthmatic crisis.
Some general rules and precautions should be taken into consideration.
- The child’s doctor should give advice on participation in physical activities (type of exercise, duration, precautions).
- Teachers should be aware of the child’s condition and of the doctor’s recommendations in order to be able to take the necessary precautions and intervene appropriately in the case of an attack.
- Children with asthma should not take part in physical activities in environments where there could be a very strong allergenic threat, such as in gyms with very dusty mats or sports equipment (due to the presence of mites), or, during the flowering season, outside in the open air in the case of those allergic to pollen.
- Physical activity should be avoided in poor climatic conditions (e.g. in very dry and cold air).
- Not all sports pose the same risk. Those most likely to provoke an asthma attack are aerobic exercise and exercise lasting over six minutes.
- The best sports for children with asthma are those where there is no risk of hyperventilation and that do not involve breathing through the mouth; and those requiring power and dexterity, involving short bursts of activity with little increase in breathing rate.
The following should be borne in mind:
- It is important always to warm up before exercise: a warm-up period (of at least 10 minutes) can help to prevent attacks of exercise-induced asthma.
- Physical activity should end gradually.
- The nose should be used as a “limiter”: breathing through the nose, which will filter, heat and humidify the air, is essential for the prevention of exercise-induced asthma.
- Sports activity should stop if the child has a respiratory infection (cold or influenza) and only restarted with the doctor’s permission.
- Obesity is a negative factor: An overweight asthmatic child tires easily, even with a lower level of physical effort.