As we near the middle of the summer, it's about that time to start thinking of heading back to school. For parents of children with asthma, officials with the American Lung Association are urging you to have an action plan in place.

Asthma affects about seven million children under the age of 18, including more than 160,000 in New Jersey. It's also one of the primary illness-related reasons students miss school, accounting for more than 14 million lost school days each year. It's the third-leading cause of hospitalization for children under 15.

"It's important that parents of students with asthma first consider their child's health and the time they spend under the supervision of school personnel and the school environment in preparing their child to go back to school," said Dr. Albert Rizzo, immediate past-chair, National Board of the American Lung Association. "Parents should work closely with their healthcare provider and school personnel before the school year begins to initiate a plan for good asthma control in the classroom."

First, it's important for parents to know about asthma, what their child's triggers are and to share that information with the school nurse. "Whether it's a list of medications the student is on or even if it's the rescue medications they use periodically for flare-ups, it's important for the school nurse to be well-informed. That way, you can work together to reduce asthma triggers and manage symptoms while in school," said Rizzo. "For example, if your child is starting to feel tight or starting to wheeze, the first step might be to take a rescue inhaler. If he or she has to take the rescue inhaler twice with no results, then it may be time to call a medical professional."

Make sure you schedule an asthma check-up with your pediatrician before the school year starts and have a written action plan in place that is tailored to your child's needs. The plan should include a list of triggers and symptoms, the names of specific medicines and how much to administer when needed.

The plan also should explain the steps to take to manage and asthma episode and a breathing emergency. The plan should always be on file at the school nurse's office and easily accessible to anyone who may have to help the child.

The start of the school year also marks the beginning of the cold and flu season. On average, one in five Americans suffers from the flu every year. Respiratory infections like the flu are also common asthma triggers. "The American Lung Association strongly recommends children with asthma receive the flu shot as soon as it becomes available," said Rizzo.

For more information, the report can be viewed here and additional information can be found here.