Common asthma triggers
Common triggers for asthma include exposure to:
• Tobacco smoke
• Dust mites
• Pets (animal dander)
• Fungi and molds (indoor and outdoor)
• Rigorous exercise
BRUNSWICK — Georgia school nurses are working to remove asthma triggers from schools, to develop written action plans to safeguard children with asthma and to educate teachers, staff and parents about the symptoms and treatment of the chronic condition.
Those efforts are being stepped up during May, which is National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month.
An estimated 12 percent of Georgia children ages 0-17 have asthma, making it the second leading health problem among school-aged children in the state, following oral health, according to the Georgia Department of Community Health.
Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disorder of the lungs that causes recurrent episodes of wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness and coughing.
Common triggers for these symptoms include tobacco smoke, dust mites, animal dander from pets, cockroaches, fungi and mold. Breathing difficulties can be increased by physical activity and exercise.
“Asthma is a serious chronic condition, but with an effective action plan in place at school and at home, asthma does not have to impact a child’s learning, sports participation or other extracurricular activities,” said Babette Vlahos, a Centennial cluster nurse who covers eight schools in north Fulton County and chairwoman of the Georgia Association of School Nurses’ Asthma Task Force, which includes 17 nurses from across the state.
Georgia law allows children to carry and self-administer asthma medications, such as quick-relief inhalers to open their lung passages, but the problem is that many parents leave doctor appointments without understanding how and when to use those medications and how to avoid or reduce exposure to asthma triggers, Vlahos said.
In the past year, about 38 percent of Georgia children with asthma have had an attack, and 14 percent had to visit an emergency room or urgent-care center because of their asthma, according to GDCH.
“A key reason the task force was established was to see that all school age children have an AAP,” GASN President-Elect Carol Darsey said.
“We want to reduce the need for 911 calls or for a parent to be called to take a child to the emergency department because they don’t understand when their child needs asthma medication.”
Because many Georgia counties do not have a nurse in every school, another essential goal is to train all school nurses to provide asthma-management training to teachers, staff and parents.
More than 200 school nurses have taken four managing asthma triggers webinars, developed by the GASN task force in partnership with the Three Rivers Health Education Center and GDCH’s Georgia Asthma Control Program.