Asthma at School

Asthma is the leading cause of school absences due to chronic illness, accounting for 10.5 million missed school days each year. The best way to prevent asthma emergencies at school is to plan ahead. Here are a few reminders on preparing a child with asthma for school:

  • Call the school to obtain any forms you may need to sign to allow your child to carry medication at school.
  • Make sure your child has a written Asthma Action Plan, and that the school nurse has a copy on file.
  • Help your child practice administering his or her asthma medication, and make sure your child understands how important it is to keep the medicine close by at all times.
  • If possible, keep an extra quick-relief inhaler with the school nurse.
  • Talk with teachers to make sure they understand your child's triggers.
  • Remind your children of the importance of general hygiene (washing hands frequently, sneezing into their elbows instead of their hands) to prevent catching upper respiratory infections that exacerbate asthma symptoms.
  • Remember to get your child an annual flu vaccination. Research has shown the flu can be more serious for people with asthma. Respiratory viruses including the flu can trigger asthma episodes and a worsening of asthma symptoms. It can also lead to pneumonia and other respiratory diseases

Right to carry law

As of August 2010, children in Illinois are allowed to carry and administer their quick-relief asthma inhalers at school without a note from a doctor. Instead, students now only need to submit note from a parent or guardian and a copy of their prescription. 

If your child has asthma, save the package that his or her asthma inhaler comes in from the pharmacy, which should include the prescription label. The school will need to see this packaging and will have a consent form for parents and guardians to sign. You can contact your child's school before classes begin to receive a copy of the necessary paperwork. 

All Illinois primary and secondary schools required to adopt asthma emergency response protocol

Illinois Public Act 099-0843 was signed by Governor Bruce Rauner on August 19, 2016, and requires Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) to develop a model asthma episode emergency response protocol, and for each school district, charter school, and non-public school to adopt a similar protocol, including all the components of the ISBE model protocol, by January 1, 2017. The model asthma episode emergency response protocol and other resources are available on ISBE website.

The same law requires schools to request from parents of students with asthma, an Asthma Action Plan (AAP). If provided, the asthma action plan must be kept on file in the office of the school nurse or, in the absence of a school nurse, the school administrator.

This law also requires school personnel who work with pupils to complete training on the management of asthma, prevention of asthma symptoms, and emergency response in the school setting every two years. You can bring RHA’s asthma programs to your schools, including Asthma Management, RHA’s free, 1-hour program that educates anyone who is a caregiver for a child with asthma.

Note: On April 6, 2017 from 3:00-4:00 p.m. CDT, RHA and our partners at Illinois Department of Public Health and Illinois State Board of Education will be hosting an online Asthma Management training webinar. For more information, visit the Asthma Management Webinar page.

Chicago Public Schools approves new asthma policy 

At their meeting on January 26, 2012, Chicago Public School Board of Education approved a new asthma-specific policy supported by Respiratory Health Association. The policy will increase awareness and support of students with asthma. 

What is the new CPS asthma policy?
The policy sets clearer guidelines for communication among students, parents and school administrators. At the beginning of each school year, principals will request information on students living with asthma, including an Asthma Action Plan. Students who do not have an Asthma Action Plan on file with their school will be covered by a district-wide plan that outlines general guidelines for managing asthma and asthma emergencies.

The policy also brings CPS into compliance with statewide legislation passed in August 2010, which no longer requires students to have a note from a physician before they can carry their inhalers in school. Instead, students will only need to submit a note from a parent, an original prescription label and a form generated by the school.

Finally, the policy requires that all staff who interact with children receive asthma training every two years. Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago is a CPS-approved facilitator of Asthma Management, a free, one-hour course for parents, teachers and other caregivers on how to assist a child with asthma.

What does the new CPS policy mean for my child?
For the remainder of this school year, the new policy means that there will be less barriers to your student carrying and self-medicating his/her quick-relief inhaler. There will be a greater awareness around asthma and more intrinsic motivation for schools to bring in asthma education for staff.

What changes will be implemented for the 2012-13 school year?
For the 2012-13 school year, a 504 plan will be put in place and will bring about more policies related to asthma. All students with asthma must be offered a 504 plan by the nurse or other appropriate staff, but they do not have to accept it. Generic Asthma Action Plans will be put in place for students who do not have their own. More staff will be trained in asthma on a regular basis (at least every two years) and it will be easier for your child to carry and self-administer quick-relief inhalers.

More Information

Our What You Need to Know about Preparing for School with Asthma resource sheet is available in English and Spanish as a printer-friendly PDF. Find more information in our Asthma Library.

Our Asthma in Chicago report features pieces from researchers, community members and health professionals addressing disparities in asthma prevalence, community perspectives on the disease and suggested interventions to improve the experience of people living with asthma in Chicago.

Asthma by the Numbers features facts about asthma prevalence, impact and cost. 

If you have questions or would like more information, contact Amy O'Rourke:
Email Amy
(312) 628-0217