Environmental Health and Safety
Asthma Education Program

Asthma is the number one chronic disease among students in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.  Over 14,000 CMS students have been identified with asthma. 

Asthma also is one of the leading causes of school absenteeism. In an average classroom 30 students 3 students may have asthma. Several students with asthma may go undiagnosed or unidentified.

If asthma symptoms are uncontrolled, students with asthma may:               

  • Lose sleep because of coughing at night and then be tired the next day at school. 
  • Have a hard time in school or physical activities
  • Avoid physical activity, fearing that it may trigger an asthma attack
  • Avoid taking their asthma medication because they do not want to be seen as "different."
  • Express feelings of embarrassment, frustration and isolation.

If your child has asthma, it is very important to tell your child's school nurse, teacher, coach, and caregivers. 

Please contact any CMS school nurse for more information or assistance in managing your child's asthma.

Responding to an Asthma Emergency

Asthma is a chronic disease of the lungs that makes it difficult to breathe. When a child with asthma is exposed to a ‘trigger’, the airways become narrow/constricted and often swollen or inflamed. During an asthma episode (or attack) three main things can happen: Think “SET.”

  1. S-swelling; the airways become swollen which narrow the airway and make it difficult for air to pass through.
  2. E-Exra Mucous; extra mucous that clogs the airway
  3. T-Tightening of the airway that further narrows the airway making it even more difficult for air to pass. Children with asthma may take controller medicines every day to prevent asthma symptoms. During an asthma episode, children need to take their rescue or quick relief medication as soon as possible. Rescue or quick relief inhalers open the airways. All students with asthma should have their rescue inhaler at school.
Knowing the signs and symptoms of asthma to help recognize and respond faster to an asthma emergency.
Early asthma signs:
  • Coughing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Tightness in the chest or throat
  • Stomach pain

Late asthma signs:

  • Breathlessness
  • Blue or gray skin, lips and fingertips
  • Difficulty talking or walking
  • Restlessness, agitation

Steps You Should Take In An Asthma Emergency:

  • Stop the activity and help the child to a sitting position.
  • Stay calm. Reassure the student you are there to help.
  • Help the child take his/her medication, if available.
  • If the child is at school, accompany child to the health office or call the school nurse, first responder. NEVER SEND THE CHILD TO THE OFFICE ALONE!
  • Notify the child’s parent or guardian.

Call "911" if the student has any of the following:

  • No improvement after taking medication
  • The child does not have medication at school
  • Trouble walking or talking
  • Struggles to breathe
  • Chest, neck muscles pull in when breathing
  • Flared nostrils
  • Lips, skin are blue or grey
  • Confused, agitated or loses consciousness

Charlotte Schools - 10 Ways to Manage Asthma

  1. Be Informed: Use the Environmental Protection Agency's Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Tools for Schools Kit
    Help students, staff and visitors by improving the school environment by utilizing practices recommended in the kit. All schools have a copy of Tools For Schools and procedures in place to deal with environmental issues
  2. Control Animal Allergens
    Remove classroom animals from the school, if possible.
    If not, locate animals away from sensitive students and ventilation systems.
  3. Control Cockroach Allergens
    Use Integrated Pest Management practices to prevent cockroach and other pest problems (e.g., store food in tightly sealed containers and place dumpsters away from the building).
  4. Clean Up Mold and Control Moisture
    Fix moisture problems and thoroughly dry wet areas within 24-48 hours to prevent mold growth.
    Clean up moldy hard surfaces with water and detergent, then dry thoroughly. Contact maintenance if the problem is severe.
  5. Proper use of HVAC systems
    Many IAQ problems are created from misuse of the heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems. When the unit is turned off, filtration and dilution of classroom air with outside air is prevented. Contaminants and carbon dioxide levels may build up gradually and cause irritation to some individuals.
  6. Reduce Dust Mite Exposure
    Make sure school is dusted and vacuumed thoroughly and regularly.
  7. Do not open windows during the hot/humid months.
    Opening windows when it is humid out can create a problem in the afternoon when the windows are shut and the AC is on. The AC unit has a hard time taking all of the humidity out of the air, and if the room gets too cool or it is not operating properly can lead to high humidity or condensation in the room, potentially creating a mold problem.
  8. Do not set thermostats below 72* in the summer.
    As mentioned above, if a room is too cold, this can cause condensation on ductwork or on desks/tables leaking to mold growth if it continues over a period of time.
  9. Inspect your classroom regularly
    Many times there is a complaint in a classroom the problem can be easily identified.
    Areas under sinks in the classroom are a big problem if there is a leak and it goes undetected, or is not reported to maintenance.
  10. Do not use air fresheners/plug-ins etc.
    For various reasons many classrooms may not have the most pleasant odor. Masking agents such as air fresheners do not cure the problem, they only add chemicals and particles into the air that can trigger asthma and allergic responses in some individuals.

Asthma Facts

What is Asthma? Asthma is a chronic inflammatory (swelling) disease of the airways that causes frequent difficult periods of wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness, and nighttime or early morning coughing. Asthma can be difficult to diagnose and to differentiate from other respiratory illnesses.
Is there a cure for asthma? No, but it can be controlled. Students with asthma should be able to live healthy active lives with few symptoms.

Can a person die from asthma?
Yes. Nearly 4,000 Americans died of asthma in 2005. Some of those deaths could have been prevented with proper management and care.


Can asthma be managed/controlled?
Yes, Asthma can be managed/controlled by doing the following:
  • Seeing your doctor regularly,
  • Taking doctor prescribe medication as directed
  • Knowing your peak flow and symptoms
  • Having an Asthma Action Plan (AAP) knowing what triggers your asthma, and staying away from asthma triggers.
How do you get asthma?
  • Some people are born with asthma
  • Asthma may be genetic ( parent and child both have asthma)
  • Environmental exposures.
  • Being exposed to secondhand smoke.
What triggers asthma? 
 Asthma triggers are things that make your asthma worse and everyone has different triggers.


Common triggers are:
  • Dust mites
  • Cockroaches
  • Plants/ flowers
  • Mold
  • Dogs/ Cats
  • Tobacco smoke

Can you out grow asthma? Few people outgrow asthma. Asthma is a chronic disease and most people who have asthma will have it all their lives. While there is no cure for asthma, it can be controlled by taking the asthma medicines your doctor prescribes and seeing your primary care physician regularly.

Links and Resources

Allergy and Asthma Network Mothers of Asthmatics 
https://allergyasthmanetwork.org/health-a-z/allergies-and-asthma-at-school/#parents (Information for Parents)

National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion websites
www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/asthma.htm (Asthma Fact Sheets)


American Lung Association
https://www.cdc.gov/asthma/interventions/openairway_researchbase.htm (Open Airways for Schools)


National Association of School Nurses
www.nasn.org (School Nurse Asthma Management Program)


U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Indoor Air Quality Tools For Schools
www.epa.gov/iaq/schools/actionkit.html (Indoor Air Quality)

P.O. Box 30035
Charlotte, NC 28230-0035
Phone: 980-343-3000
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