Asthma Initiative of Michigan

For every classroom in Michigan with 30 children in it, two may have asthma. This chronic disease causes unnecessary restriction of childhood activities, and is a leading cause of school absenteeism. “Although… asthma affects Americans of all ages, races and ethnic groups… children, low-income and minority populations have been most severely affected.” (A Strategic Plan for the Department of Health & Human Services. US Dept. of Health and Human Services; May 2000.) Asthma can also be life-threatening. Asthma can be controlled, though, and with proper treatment and support, children with asthma can lead fully active lives.

Asthma: It’s more serious than you think, but many school employees don’t think so. A survey conducted by the Asthma Initiative of Michigan (AIM) suggests that many school workers, including administrative assistants, custodians, principals and teachers, may routinely underestimate the disease – both in terms of its prevalence and seriousness. Increases in asthma rates during the last 15 years, along with several deaths in Michigan, have raised the level of concern about whether or not Michigan schools are prepared to deal with this epidemic. Asthma is the most common chronic disease among school-aged children in the United States. Estimates from state surveys show that about 1 in every 15 children in school has asthma.

New health information kits titled “Never Judge a Book by Its Cover, and Other Important Lessons About Asthma” were developed to disseminate accurate asthma information to Michigan schools. The packets are tailored to specific school staff. Click on the links below to find out how very serious asthma can be to a student.

Managing Asthma: A Guide for Schools is intended to assist schools that are planning and/or maintaining an asthma management program. This guide provides followup steps for schools that currently identify students with asthma through health forms or emergency cards or plan to do so. It is designed to offer practical information to school staff members of every position. To learn about the actions each school staff member can take to help kids with asthma at school, click on

It’s not only kids who have asthma, though. Click here to learn about work-related asthma.

For more information, visit the CDC’s Division of Adolescent and School Health Healthy Youth–Asthma web page.

The National Asthma Education and Prevention Program (NAEPP) believes that schools should adopt policies for the management of asthma that encourage the active participation of students in the self-management of their disease, and allow for the most consistent, active participation in all school activities. These policies should allow:

  • A smoke-free environment for all school activities.
  • Access to health services supervised by a school nurse.
  • A written medication policy that allows safe, reliable, and prompt access to medications in the least restrictive way during all school-related activities and self-managed administration of medication consistent with the needs of the individual child and the safety of others.
  • An asthma action plan is a vital part of each school child’s asthma care. Learn more about asthma action plans.
  • A school-wide emergency plan for handling severe exacerbations of asthma.
  • Staff development for all school personnel on school medication policies, emergency procedures, and procedures for communicating health concerns about students.
  • Development of a supportive and healthy environment that respects the abilities and needs of each student with asthma. View “Indoor Air Quality, Tools for Schools” – a program that helps schools recognize and address air quality problems.

If reasonable accommodations to keep kids with asthma healthy in school are not made, schools can be held legally responsible. To find out more about reasonable accommodations law, view Section 504 and Title II of ADA, or learn more about IDEA.