This story has been updated to reflect accurate CDC figures on children and asthma.
Boy, things sure have changed since I was in school. No surprise there, but have they changed for the better?
In Arizona, a new law goes into effect on Wednesday, Aug. 9, designed to “make things better” for asthmatic children.
The biggest change? Schools will be allowed to carry stock rescue inhalers obtained through donations and grants.
But will that really cut down the time between an asthma attack and life-saving treatment. Although I applaud the effort, I seriously doubt it.
What the new law does
Under HB 2208:
- All public, private and charter school nurses must complete annual state respiratory training before any child is allowed to use an inhaler.
- At least two medically trained people at every school need to complete respiratory training and inhaler administration training every year.
- School nurses first must check if a child has a rescue inhaler on file with the school before they are allowed to use a school stock one.
- School nurses can apply for grants from the state health department and seek donations from approved health providers.
- School nurses must notify parents every time a child used a rescue inhaler (on the same day).
The new law doesn’t change the way medications are handled at school.
3 sons, 3 asthmatic schoolchildren
My three preemie boys have Reactive Airway Disease (RAD), which is just fancy for saying really bad asthma.
Last year was my first year playing the school medicine hokey-pokey dance. And it was infuriating.
The law requires parents to provide schools with the most current inhaler and albuterol nebulizer prescriptions. They must be in original boxes, unopened, with pharmacy and doctor information included.
I drove to five different pharmacies to ensure my kids had inhalers, masks and tubing for the schools, in addition to three I had at home. (Because even though they are brothers, they can’t share tubing apparently?)
The law requires medications to be in a Ziploc baggie, with child’s name, grade and teacher. Then there is the paperwork. Each item had a separate form to fill out. You do the math for three asthmatic boys.
Jumping through Dante’s 10 levels of hell would be easier than the red tape to allow your child the ability to self-carry and self-administer. They also have to pass an assessment such as the one the American Lung Association provides.
New policies delay treatment
Between 2001 and 2004, schools across Arizona adopted new health policies removing rescue inhalers from children’s hands. Gone were the days they could tuck them in their backpacks.
I ran cross-country and track all throughout my education into college. Between my dad, aunt and coaches, they used to chuck my inhaler at me when it looked liked I needed some help. When I didn’t need it, I would chuck it back.
Coaches could be fired for that today.
Not only do these new policies delay treatment (and potentially risk a child’s life), they also disrupt the child’s class day when they need to go to the school nurse. (For what could take less than two seconds at their desk).
The cost and effect of asthma
Here are some facts to chew on. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates:
- 13 percent of all U.S. children have asthma.
- 5.7 percent of young children (0-4) are diagnosed with asthma.
- 14.4 percent of children ages 5-11 have asthma.
- 17.3 percent of older children ages 12-17 have asthma.
- Roughly, 6 million children have asthma in the United States.
- 220 U.S. children, on average, die from respiratory complications every year.
- 4.6 million children a year visit emergency rooms for acute asthma attacks.
- Respiratory attacks are the No. 1 reason children miss school and cause nearly $750 million in caretakers’ lost revenue.
What if they can’t pass the assessment?
Delaying treatment time could in turn increase the probability of more invasive treatments, such as a nebulizer or hospitalization.
Imagine my shock when the school nurse called me saying my oldest son was having a severe asthma attack the first week of preschool. Pulling into the school, it dawned on me he had his rescue inhaler in his backpack.
I asked him why he didn’t use it, but before he could answer, I got a lecture from the nurse about the 2001 and 2005 laws forbidding children to self-carry and self-administer, without proper paperwork and assessment. Seriously?
My preschooler certainly would not be able to pass the assessment. He knows how to shake his inhaler and give himself two pumps while breathing in. He is really good at telling you he can’t breathe.
Why the new law?
The new law effectively acts like a safety net for mom brain. Yes, we’ve all been there, things get shuffled and forgotten about. Last year, I forgot my son’s inhaler at the pharmacy for two weeks. Luckily, he did not need it at school.
All the Moms spoke with seven Arizona school districts. They will be applying for grants and donations after Aug. 9, when information becomes available.
“We’ve done tremendous work in Arizona in making schools as safe as we can for our children. This is yet another step to keep our children healthy at school,” said Rep. Heather Carter, R-Cave Creek, one of the bill’s advocates.