According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 1 in 12 children had asthma in 2015. The agency also reports that in 2013, 13.8 million school days were missed due to the disease making it a leading cause of school absenteeism.
Asthma is a long-term, inflammatory disease that causes the airways of the lungs to tighten and constrict, leading to wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness and coughing. The inflammation also causes the airways of the lungs to become especially sensitive to a variety of asthma triggers. The particular trigger or triggers and the severity of symptoms can differ for each person with asthma.
This sometimes life-threatening respiratory disease can be controlled through proper medical treatment and by managing exposure to environmental triggers that can cause an asthma attack. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lists the following asthma triggers commonly found in or around school buildings, they include:
• Respiratory viruses
• Cockroaches and other pests
• Mold resulting from excess moisture in the school
• Dander from animals in the classroom
• Dander brought in on clothing from animals at home
• Secondhand smoke
• Dust mites
• Cleaning agents, perfumes, pesticides and other sprays
• Particle pollution
• Bus exhaust
Fortunately, there are environmental tests and air monitoring instruments to identify these and other known asthma triggers along with common respiratory irritants and allergens. If detected, corrective actions can be taken to mitigate or eliminate exposure concerns.