As children head back to school after summer break and schools open their doors after months of closure, it’s important for parents to inquire about the indoor air quality of their child’s school.

According to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 50 percent of schools report poor air quality. Given the number of hours spent in school, indoor air quality can affect children. While poor air quality might not have an effect on every student, it can cause health problems for the 11,000 students in North Dakota who suffer from asthma.

“Dust that accumulates over the summer, dirty air conditioning filters and classroom pets can irritate a child’s asthma or even cause an asthma attack,” said Jill Heins, the national director of lung health for the American Lung Association. “Before returning to school this fall, it’s important for a parent to speak with their child’s school about how this air quality could impact their child’s health and ability to learn.”

These steps can make sure that air in your child's school is safe and healthy for both children and adults:

  1. Learn about the signs of unhealthy air: Are you concerned about the quality of air in your local school? Learn the signs and symptoms that can indicate unhealthy air. Learn how to identify problems and solutions and find out what to do if an indoor air emergency occurs. 
  2. Inform your child’s school about your child’s asthma and allergies: Speak with school teachers, nurses and PE teachers or coaches, sharing details about your child’s asthma, his or her triggers and what to do in case of an emergency. It’s also important to have a plan with school personnel on what to do in case of an emergency -- whether that be for your child to head directly to the school nurse or to use their quick-relief inhaler.
  3. Ask your child’s teacher about asthma triggers in the classroom: Dust, scents from cleaning supplies, pests and classroom pets can affect a child’s asthma. Reducing these asthma triggers can help reduce an asthma event at school.
  4. Ask the school if they have a tobacco-free campus: Schools grounds, facilities, vehicles and sponsored events should be tobacco-free. Smoking cessation services should be provided for students and staff. Get more information on these school policy recommendations, which are part of the Asthma-Friendly Schools Initiative.
  5. Be prepared if there is an asthma event: If your child has asthma, work with your healthcare provider to create a plan with instructions for early treatment of your asthma symptoms. An Asthma Action Plan is a written, individualized worksheet that shows you the steps to take to keep your asthma from getting worse. It also provides guidance on when to call your healthcare provider or when to go to the emergency room. This should be shared with your child’s teacher, school nurse and all sports coaches.