Schools: Managing Asthma in School Environments

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Why It's Important

  • Asthma is the leading cause of children’s absence from school.
  • Numerous environmental triggers can cause asthma attacks, such as:
    • Mold, excess moisture, and dust
    • Pests and animal dander
    • Diesel exhaust
    • Chemicals in some cleaning products
  • Addressing asthma triggers can reduce the number of nurse visits and keep children focused on school work.

What You Can Do

  • Perform regular and thorough cleaning and building maintenance to help children avoid environmental triggers.
  • Avoid using cleaning products containing strong odors or fragrances that might trigger asthma symptoms.
  • Implement an integrated pest management program to reduce the risk of triggers.
  • Ensure the school has policies in place to reduce unnecessary car and bus idling.
  • EPA's Model School Environmental Health Program addresses key components that can reduce asthma triggers.

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    EPA and Federal Partners

    • EPA's Asthma and Indoor Environments website provides information about common indoor asthma triggers and how to avoid them.
    • EPA's Best Practices for Reducing Near-Road Air Pollution Exposure at Schools publication can be used by schools to reduce exposure to traffic-related air pollution.
    • Managing Asthma in the School Environment by EPA offers nine tools for schools: 10 Ways to Manage Asthma, The Asthma Epidemic, Asthma in Schools, IAQ Tools for Schools, Environmental Asthma Triggers, Asthma Management and Education, Additional Resources, Asthma Action Card, and Daily Asthma Management Plan.
    • Managing Asthma: A Guide for Schools (44 pp, 1.1 M, About PDF) helps schools plan or maintain an asthma management program for their students with asthma. The guide was a collaborative project of the National Asthma Education and Prevention Program in the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools in the U.S. Department of Education.
    • EPA's School Flag Program helps children, parents, school personnel and the community to be aware of daily air quality conditions. Participating schools raise brightly colored flags that signal the level of air pollution for that day to help school members and the surrounding community adjust their activities to reduce their exposure to air pollution. 
    • Role of the State Asthma Program in Implementing Multicomponent, School-Based Asthma Interventions by CDC's National Asthma Control Program highlights activities three state asthma programs have undertaken to support school-based initiatives.

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    National Organizations

    • Asthma in Schools  on the American Lung Association website helps families and schools make sure that children with asthma stay healthy, in school and ready to learn. The website includes:
    • The State Honor Roll,  produced annually by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, identifies states with the most comprehensive and preferred statewide public policies supporting people with asthma and related allergic diseases in U.S. elementary, middle and high schools. The goal of this report is to identify state-level progress toward better school-based policies and to provide a blueprint for asthma and allergy advocates nationwide.
    • Just for Kids  on the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology website includes games, storybooks, videos and more to help kids learn about managing their asthma and allergies.
    • Mold, Mice and Zip Codes: Inside the Childhood Asthma Epidemic by NBC News, report on the links between asthma, poverty, and where you live.

    Regional, State and Local Resources

    • Sensible Steps for Healthier School Environments  by EPA provides an overview of issues related to asthma and asthma triggers in schools.
    • Asthma and the School Environment in New York State  by the state's Department of Health summarizes research on asthma hospitalization among school-age children as well as school building conditions. The report identifies the strengths and remaining challenges of managing asthma and associated environmental factors in the school setting.
    • Schools and Asthma  on the Asthma Initiative of Michigan website offers numerous tools to support children with asthma in schools as well as related state laws and policies and resources for school staff and parents.