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“Can you catch asthma Miss?” – Why schools are a great platform for improving asthma health outcomes

14th September 2017

Asthma Friendly Schools Nurse Karen Rodesano explains why schools play a major role in ensuring a safe environment for children with asthma

Schools play a major role in ensuring a safe environment for children with asthma. The Asthma Friendly Schools Project is an innovative community based project aimed at schools in the London borough of Islington.

The project focuses on delivering 5 key asthma care standards for schools.  These include ensuring all schools had an asthma policy, an asthma register, a school asthma emergency plan and a school asthma lead.  Each child needs to have a spacer and inhaler and an asthma care plan at school.

Research shows that innovative whole school approaches to education can improve the health of children with asthma. The aim of the project is to teach asthma management to school staff, students and parents but also the children themselves.

There are many myths about asthma and despite it being a common condition I am surprised by how many children and young people don’t understand asthma.

Asthma affects 1 in 5 children, so it is not uncommon for there to be 2-3 children with asthma in each class. My background as a paediatric and school nurse has set me in good stead for my role as an Asthma Friendly School’s nurse at Whittington Health.

I also have asthma and thus I am able to empathise and share personal experiences from when I was growing up, including the time I spent in hospital. I can reflect and share how I didn’t want to look different from my peers and thus why I didn’t want to use my spacer and inhaler at school. I have been asked on many occasions during teaching sessions by the children at school; “do you have your spacer in your bag Miss?” normally followed by “can we see it Miss?” I am always happy and proud to show the children my spacer.

Another question I have been asked many times is, “can you catch asthma Miss?” to which I always reply “no” but I use the opportunity to tell them it is always good to know what to do, so you can help someone who is having problems with asthma.  I use lots of interactive games and try to make the sessions with the younger children fun. My teaching aims to dispel asthma myths and make approaches more cohesive in schools.

As part of the project I also arrange drop in sessions at secondary schools where we have discussions and group activities. Teenagers need different teaching formats from younger children if they are to be empowered to take control of their asthma. They are given the opportunity to ask questions to health professionals, complete asthma control tests and  write care plans for their asthma with a health professional.

67% of the schools visited achieved Asthma friendly status, and the synergistic working between health and education was the key to the success of the project.

In September when children and young people go back to school, there is a huge increase in attendances to emergency departments.  Children and young people with asthma need a ‘back to school’ checklist to include:

  • Remember to talk to your school nurse about your asthma and any concerns
  • Remember to tell your teachers you have asthma
  • Remember to have your 12 month annual review
  • Remember to have a spacer inhaler and a copy of your asthma care plan in school

Children and young people spend so much of their time in school. Children are so open to learning and teachers see their pupils’ everyday making schools the perfect platform for improving health outcomes for those with asthma.

About the author

Karen Rodesano is an Asthma Friendly Schools Nurse













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