"Asthma is a disease of the airways, the small tubes which carry air in and out of the lungs. When you have asthma symptoms the muscles in the airways tighten and the lining of the airways swells and produces sticky mucus. These changes cause the airways to become narrow, so that there is less space for the air to flow into an out of your lungs" (National Asthma Council 2011).
Symptoms of asthma may include, but are not limited to:
• shortness of breath
• wheezing (a whistling noise from the chest).
• tightness in the chest
• a dry, irritating, persistent cough.
Symptoms vary from person to person.
• smoke (cigarette smoke, wood smoke from open fires, burn-offs or bushfires)
• weather changes
• dust and dust mites
• deodorants (including perfumes, after-shaves, hair spray and deodorant sprays)
• foods and additives
• certain medications (including aspirin and anti-inflammatories)
For each student diagnosed with asthma, to have a written:
• Asthma Care Plan
• a whole school policy to manage asthma that addresses staff asthma awareness training, first aid kits content and maintenance, medication storage and management of confidential medical information.
Developing an asthma care plan
The Asthma Foundation Victoria’s Asthma Care Plan for Schools should be:
• completed by the student’s medical/health practitioner in consultation with the parents/guardians
• provided annually by the:
- doctor to the parents/guardian
- parents/guardians to the school.
The plan must include:
• the prescribed medication taken:
- on a regular basis
- as premedication to exercise
- if the student is experiencing symptoms.
• emergency contact details
• business and after hours contact details of the student’s medical/health practitioner
• details about deteriorating asthma including:
- signs to recognise worsening symptoms
- what to do during an attack
- medication to be used
• an asthma first aid section and should:
- specify no less than 4 separate puffs of blue reliever medication, with 4 breaths taken per puff every 4 minutes, using a spacer if possible.
Assessment and First Aid Treatment of an Asthma attack
If a student develops signs of what appears to be an asthma attack, appropriate care must be given immediately.
Assessing the severity of an asthma attack
Asthma attacks can be:
• Mild - this may involve coughing, a soft wheeze, minor difficulty in breathing and no difficulty speaking in sentences
• Moderate - this may involve a persistent cough, loud wheeze, obvious difficulty in breathing and ability to speak only in short sentences
• Severe - the student is often very distressed and anxious, gasping for breath, unable to speak more than a few words, pale and sweaty and may have blue lips.
All students judged to be having a severe asthma attack require emergency medical assistance.
Call an ambulance (dial 000), notify the student’s emergency contact and follow the ‘4 Step Asthma First Aid Plan’ while waiting for the ambulance to arrive. When calling the ambulance state clearly that a student is having ‘breathing difficulties.’ The ambulance service will give priority to a person suffering extreme shortness of breath. Regardless of whether an attack of asthma has been assessed as mild, moderate or severe, Asthma First Aid (as detailed below) must commence immediately. The danger in any asthma situation is delay. Delay may increase the severity of the attack and ultimately risk the student’s life.
Asthma First Aid
If the student has an Asthma Action Plan, follow the first aid procedure immediately. If no, Asthma Action Plan is available in the steps outlined below should be taken immediately.
The 4 Step Asthma First Aid Plan (displayed in Sick Bay and classrooms):
Step 1: Sit the student down in as quiet an atmosphere as possible. Breathing is easier sitting rather than lying down. Be calm and reassuring. Do not leave the student alone.
Step 2: Without delay give 4 separate puffs of a blue reliever medication (Airomir, Asmol, Epaq or Ventolin). The medication is best given one puff at a time via a spacer device. If a spacer device is not available, simply use the puffer on its own. Ask the person to take 4 breaths from the spacer after each puff of medication.
Step 3: Wait 4 minutes. If there is little or no improvement repeat steps 2 and 3.
Step 4: If there is still little or no improvement; call an ambulance immediately (dial 000). State clearly that a student is having ‘breathing difficulties.’ Continuously repeat steps 2 and 3 while waiting for the ambulance.
Managing exercise induced asthma (EIA)
If a student has diagnosed EIA schools should ensure that they allow adequate time for the following procedures; before, during and after exercise
• reliever medication to be taken by student 5-20 minutes before activity
• student to undertake adequate warm up activity
• if symptoms occur, student to stop activity, take reliever, only return to activity if symptom free
• if symptoms reoccur, student to take reliever and cease activity
• ensure cool down activity is undertaken
• be alert for symptoms
If a student has an asthma attack during exercise, follow their Asthma Action Plan if easily accessible, or commence first aid procedure.
Always notify parent of any incidents.
Related DET policies
• Asthma Attacks
• Asthma First Aid Kits
• Health Care Needs
• Health Support Planning Forms
• Parental Responsibility
• Asthma, Chronic Illness Alliance
• Asthma Foundation - Resources for Schools and Children's Services
• Care Arrangements for Ill students Policy
• Medication Policy
• Duty of Care Policy
• First Aid Policy
This policy will be reviewed as part of the school’s three-year review cycle.
This policy was last ratified by School Council on: 15/02/2016.