Free Lance-Star reporter Amy Umble covers Stafford County schools and other education issues

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Back-to-school tips for students with asthma

The American Lung Association in Virginia offers these back-to-school tips for students with asthma:

Families in Fredericksburg and across Virginia are getting ready for the new school year by shopping for supplies and filling out forms. For students with asthma, though, there are additional items that should be on the back-to-school to-do list.

6,498 children under 18 in Fredericksburg, Spotsylvania, and Stafford, and 158,500 throughout Virginia, have asthma. It’s one of the primary illness-related reasons that students miss school, accounting for more than 14 million absences every year.

However, there are steps that families can take before the school year starts to help keep children with asthma healthy.

“If your child has asthma, now is the time to make a plan to protect their health throughout the coming school year,” said Dennis Alexander, regional executive director for the American Lung Association in Virginia. “From having a doctor create an asthma action plan to monitoring triggers like outdoor air pollution, there are steps every family should take to keep kids with asthma safe.”

First, students with asthma and their families should take time to understand the disease. The American Lung Association has many online courses and resources available at

Second, families should call or visit their child’s school nurse to find out what forms they need to complete, discuss their child’s asthma triggers, and learn about the school’s asthma emergency plan. Families should also note that Virginia law allows children to carry and use their inhalers at school.

Third, children with asthma should visit their healthcare provider for an asthma check-up. This visit should include the completion of an asthma action plan, a personalized worksheet that lays out the child’s asthma triggers and symptoms, lists the names and dosages of their medications, and sets a plan for asthma exacerbations and emergencies. You can download an asthma action plan form from the Virginia Asthma Coalition at

Fourth, children with asthma should get a flu shot. Influenza poses a special health risk to children with asthma. The American Lung Association in Virginia strongly recommends that all children — especially those with asthma — be immunized against influenza.

And fifth, students with asthma and their families should make a habit of monitoring their local air quality. Outdoor air pollution can lead to exacerbated asthma symptoms and cause asthma attacks. On days with elevated levels of ozone (smog) or particle pollution (soot), students with asthma should consider reducing their time or activity outside. The American Lung Association offers a free smartphone app that lets parents and kids check daily pollution levels at