A plan of action for your child’s asthma

Editor’s note: This post first appeared in Alamo City Moms Blog.

Another school year is winding down, and soon families will be busy with the usual activities of summer — family vacations, summer camp, swimming lessons.

If your child has asthma, there is one more activity to add to the list: developing an asthma action plan with your child’s physician during the summer, before the back-to-school rush.

Asthma is a chronic condition marked by inflammation and narrowing of the airways, leading to wheezing, shortness of breath and coughing. It usually starts in childhood. Asthma is very common. It afflicts more than 25 million people. About 7 million of them are children.

An asthma action plan helps you and the school system manage your child’s asthma. It’s a legal document used by school nurses. The plan is specific to your child and describes his or her symptoms, what medicines are prescribed for everyday use, and what medications to give and what to do in case of emergency. If grandparents or other caregivers spend a lot of time with the child, they should have a copy of the plan too.

Many schools use an Asthma Action Plan form developed by the South Texas Asthma Coalition. It is available on the Texas Department of State Health Services web site and is organized by the colors of a traffic light — green, yellow and red. Similar to traffic lights, green means go, yellow means caution and red means danger.

Green: This part of the plan applies when your child’s breathing is good, with no coughing or wheezing. His or her asthma is under good control, and if your child’s asthma is well-managed it should be in the green zone most of the time. The asthma action plan will list medications they take daily to prevent an asthma attack, the dosages and when to take them — before exercise, for example.

Yellow: This applies when a child is having symptoms such as coughing, wheezing or a tight chest. It prescribes how to use quick-relief medicines to help your child breath more easily and prevent the asthma attack from worsening.

Red: Provides direction when quick-relief medicines aren’t working and your child is having difficulty breathing and/or continues to wheeze. If your child’s symptoms aren’t improved with quick-acting medications, then it is recommended that he or she is seen by a doctor.

The document also can serve as a medication permission form in many cases, and includes a note from the doctor instructing the school nurse whether the child is able to carry and self-administer his or her medications while at school.

The South Texas Pediatric Lung Center at University Health System has launched a new online tool for parents, an asthma symptoms profiler that can help you understand your child’s asthma, how well it’s controlled and how to avoid what his or her particular triggers are. The physicians and nurse practitioners at South Texas Pediatric Lung Center, located at the Robert B. Green Campus Clinical Pavilion at 902 W. Martin St., are available to see your child and help design an asthma action plan so that he or she can have a healthy school year. Appointments can be scheduled by calling (210) 358-KIDS.

Schedule an early summer appointment with your child’s asthma doctor and complete the asthma action plan. It’s one more thing to cross off your to-do list. And it gives you peace of mind that there’s an easy-to-follow plan of action should your child’s asthma symptoms flare up.

Dr. Donna Beth Willey-Courand is director of the South Texas Pediatric Lung Center at University Health System, and chief of the Pediatric Pulmonology Division at the UT Health Science Center

Photo by Mark Greenberg Photography