As parents, we’re ultimately responsible for our children’s health. All children get ill from time to time, but children with asthma may need medical care at school. If your child suffers from asthma, it’s vital to arrange a meeting with the school staff before your child starts at a new school, to ensure all relevant staff know how to handle it.
Go into any nursery or classroom, and you’ll see a pile of inhalers on a shelf. One in 11 children in the UK has asthma. Younger children will need to have a responsible adult to help manage their condition. Older children are more self sufficient. In 2009 teachers in Perth and Kinross were offered special training to learn how to provide better support for schoolchildren with asthma.
All teachers should be made aware of a child’s condition and they must be familiar with symptoms and know when to intervene or call for help. This is especially important in secondary schools, where children move from class to class and are less well supervised as they become increasingly independent.
The Department for Education has set out guidelines for schools which should have clear, regularly updated policies about how to help children with medical conditions. As a parent it’s important to set up a meeting to discuss how a child’s condition is managed in school as guidelines are not always followed.
There’s no reason why children with health conditions shouldn’t take part in sport. However while it’s good for PE teachers to be encouraging and inclusive, they need to be aware of a child’s limitations. Asthma UK’s Alert to Asthma programme gives teachers information about supporting children with asthma, while their Out There and Active book is really useful for parents keen to pre-empt issues before they even arise.
Going on class outings or even school trips shouldn’t be a problem, as long as staff are aware of a child’s health condition and are trained in how to manage it. Provided the right guidelines are in place and all the key staff are aware of them, asthma can be managed in a school environment and your child should be able to lead a full and active life.
Alison Whyte is a freelance journalist.