Asthma is the most common chronic health problem among preschool and school-aged children. It can be a life threatening illness.

What is Asthma?

Asthma is a chronic breathing disorder that causes episodes of wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath. These symptoms are caused by spasms of the air passages. Breathing becomes difficult when these air passages swell and fill with mucus.

Asthma attacks can be caused by:

  • Respiratory infections
  • Stress
  • Exposure to cigarette smoke
  • Extreme weather conditions
  • Strenuous exercise
  • Allergies to dust, pollen, mold, cockroaches, or animals
  • Indoor air pollutants (chemicals, paint, perfumes)
  • Outdoor air pollutants

Reduce the Risk of Episodes of Asthma

Take the following precautions:

  • Recognizing a child’s limits for strenuous exercise
  • Decreasing exposure to allergens by:
    • installing low pile carpets or mats
    • vacuuming and dusting frequently
    • not allowing pets in the child care area
  • Keeping children who are sensitive to cold and dampness indoors during cold and damp weather
  • Prohibiting smoking inside the child care area or on the playground
  • Discouraging the use of perfumes, scented cleaning products and other fumes
  • Promptly repairing leaky plumbing or other sources of excess water
  • Using the least hazardous treatment for pest control before moving on to more toxic treatments
  • Keeping children with asthma indoors when weather reports indicate high pollen counts or unhealthy ozone levels

In the Event of an Asthma Episode

Learn to recognize when a child is suffering from asthma symptoms to prevent severe and prolonged effects. Many hospitalizations and most deaths from asthma are the result of delayed treatment. In most cases, occasional overtreatment is less dangerous than delayed treatment.

If a child is having trouble breathing:

  • Stop the child’s activity or remove the condition that is causing the symptoms.
  • Calm the child and give the prescribed medication.

Call an ambulance if the child cannot breathe and shows signs of respiratory distress.

Afterwards, record the episode, describing what seemed to trigger the symptoms, what symptoms occurred, how the child acted during the episode, and what medication was given.

Special Training and Equipment

The child care setting should have all the necessary equipment and medications needed on site and the training in how to use them, that a child with asthma needs to manage asthma symptoms.

Special Advice for Group Care Settings

Good Communication

Parents and child care providers should communicate about the specific needs of a child with asthma. Caregivers should receive training, demonstrate competence in and implement measures on how to prevent the child’s exposure to conditions that might trigger an episode of asthma, how to recognize the symptoms of asthma, and how to manage severe asthma.

Create a Care Plan

A care plan for the child should be prepared by the child’s doctor and kept on file at the child care facility.

This plan should include:

  • Emergency contact information
  • Conditions that might trigger asthma for the child
  • Names, doses, and methods of administration of medications
  • Indications for treatment
  • A future date for updating the care plan

All drivers, chaperones and assistants should have written instructions including parent emergency contacts, child summary health information, special needs, and treatments plans, and should be trained to handle medical emergencies.


Medications prescribed for asthma work by preventing reaction of tissues in the airway, or by relaxing the air passages. Some medications are taken every day to prevent asthma and others are taken only when symptoms occur. They may come in the form of an inhaler, or as a liquid, powder, or pill. The child’s health care provider should give the caregiver clear instructions and training on how and when medications should be given to a child with asthma.