Making sure that you provide a healthy and clean learning environment for all children is a large part of being a great early childhood professional. This is especially important to young learners who suffer from asthma.
Allergens are the main trigger to an asthma attack. Trying to control the exposure to and limit the amount of common allergens that cause asthma attacks is a great first step.
Allergens in a classroom may include but are not limited to: strong odors, animals, strong odors, plants, chemicals and materials used in art or science lessons.
Perfumes, Lotions and Soaps
Many perfumes, colognes, lotions and hand soaps tend to have strong odors and can be an immediate trigger for asthma sufferers. Having unscented hand soap for washing little hands can ensure students can breathe clearly. It’s also important, on teaching days, that you personally use a body wash with little to no perfume. Leave the smelly lotions and perfumes off and at home. While you cannot demand that other students or parents abstain from using these types of hygiene materials, it is always a good idea to notify parents. Write a note sent out to everyone with the welcome letter, advising all parents and children to take precaution when wearing perfumed hygiene materials to class for the health of other students with allergies and asthma.
Having a classroom pet can be a fun asset for any early childhood environment. However, if any of your children suffer from asthma, try to think of animals that do not have fur or dander. Reptiles and fish are the least likely animals to set off an asthma attack. If you are contemplating getting the class a pet with fur, smaller animals like rats, mice, and hamsters may be the best pick.
It is always a fun lesson plan teaching children how to care for plants and the different stages of a plant’s life. However, plants are sources of mold growth, pollen and other allergens that can trigger asthma in small children. If you have a child in class with asthma, it is advised that you use plants that can grow and flourish in sealed containers so that they are not contributing allergens to the air.
Certain science and art projects may involve materials that produce odors as well. It is very important to cover the chemicals and art supplies during use and well after. If there are a lot of lessons using chemicals and art supplies, you may want to purchase some cheap dust masks from a drug store and bring them in for the children to wear if they have asthma. This will reduce the amount of chemicals they are breathing in, but still allow them to participate in the lessons and activities. It’s also wise to make sure the class space is very well ventilated during these projects. If you have the option to open the door or window, feel free to add extra ventilation that way.
Overall, the most common way to ensure your classroom is a safe environment to all children, including ones with asthma, is to keep up with cleaning chores. Make sure that the cleaning crew or yourself is constantly vacuuming the room if there is carpet. Beware of surfaces that collect dust, wiping these spaces down daily.
Providing an allergen and asthma free space for your children to learn will make them feel safe in their learning experiences and set them up for success.