Background: Pediatric asthma is the No. 1 chronic disease in childhood and is responsible for significant morbidity and mortality. In Nebraska, the number of asthma-related deaths is greater than the national average, and in 1998, 2 students died of acute asthma attacks while attending school in the Omaha public schools (OPSs). In response, we designed and implemented a program to respond to this problem.
Objective: To implement and study a school-based program for the treatment of life-threatening asthma and anaphylaxis in the OPSs.
Methods: The Emergency Response to Life-Threatening Asthma or Systemic Allergic Reactions (Anaphylaxis) Protocol was designed and evaluated in 78 OPSs from 1998 to 2003. Nurses and school staff were trained in the protocol, which required the use of nebulized albuterol and/or intramuscular epinephrine in conjunction with an emergency response procedure. Outcomes were measured by improvement in acute care in schools and survival of students.
Results: In the 5 years of evaluation, 98 students were treated successfully. One student died. Of those treated with the protocol, equal numbers had at school both asthma action plans (AAPs) and metered-dose inhalers (MDIs), MDIs only, or neither AAPs nor MDIs. As a result of the program, there has been an increased awareness from parents, teachers, and physicians about the necessity of an emergency response program. In 2002, an outcome of the OPS program resulted in the formation of Attack on Asthma Nebraska to ensure that Nebraska schools have the education, training, and medications to respond to anyone experiencing a life-threatening asthma or anaphylaxis attack at school. The following year, a revised protocol was approved by the Nebraska State Board of Education for use in all Nebraska schools.
Conclusions: Emergency response protocols provide protection for children while in school. This program should serve as a national model for other school-based programs for children and adolescents with asthma and anaphylaxis.