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My son is 6 and in second grade. In general he is quite healthy, but he has illness induced asthma. In other words, his asthma is essentially dormant unless he gets a cold or the flu, at which point it can become quite severe.

This morning he has a cough and a cold, and my wife and I decided he was well enough to go to school. I would like to email the teacher to explain the situation and ask her to keep an eye on him; sending him to the nurse or the office if his breathing appears labored, or he appears to get more under the weather.

I don't know if this is appropriate, and if it is or if it isn't; are there any guidelines about what I should and shouldn't ask of my child's teacher?

She's a great teacher, and I'm fairly sure she would agree to whatever I asked, but I want to be respectful of her existing requirements and challenges while also honoring my responsibility as a parent.

TLDR; What is okay to ask of from my child's teacher regarding his physical health?

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    Did you fill out a health information form with the school prior to enrolment? Was this on the form? – corsiKa Sep 11 '17 at 19:13
  • @corsiKa I can't remember, but I think I want to get his inhaler in there anyway. So I'll have to handle that for the future. – dgo Sep 11 '17 at 19:42
  • Sounds like this should be on Interpersonal.SE? Not sure how this is about parenting... – Mehrdad Sep 12 '17 at 0:37
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    I suspect I'm suffering from a different cultural expectation here, but why would you email the teacher, rather than talk to them face-to-face? At the age of 6 in the UK you would be expected to take your child to school, and once you're there you can deal with this face-to-face. It also gives the teacher the opportunity to ask any questions they have or say "No, I am / the school is not prepared to accept that responsibility", in which case you could then take your child home. – AndyT Sep 12 '17 at 8:20
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    Not sure if you're in America or not, but if so, you need to communicate with the school medical personal, as well. They will probably want to have an inhaler on hand for your child. – jpmc26 Sep 12 '17 at 20:26
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Ask yourself:
If you were the teacher, would you rather be warned or find yourself suddenly facing a 2nd grader with a full-blown asthma attack?

I don't think your request is unreasonable. And you are not expecting her to watch your son like a hawk, or do something super-taxing, but just to be aware of a special situation.

If you phrase your request politely and express your appreciation of what she already does as nicely as in this question, I see no problem at all.

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    Thanks. I went with this essentially. I appreciate you answering so quickly, as this was an issue that was developing in real time and I needed to act or not. Seemed to go well (at least she acknowledged my communication, and my wife - who I cc'd - isn't mad at me). – dgo Sep 11 '17 at 15:02
  • While I agree there is no harm in warning the teacher; but I also think it's important to manage expectations. Many teachers have no medical training (they might not know or recognize the warning signs of various medical conditions). They might have 29 other small children to watch as well, and they aren't just watching children (they still have teaching duties to attend to). Yes, obviously, a teacher who notices a sick child or one that cannot breathe should take action, but be realistic in how reliable you expect them to be. – Rob P. Sep 15 '17 at 0:13
  • I'm not sure actually. If something bad happens to the kid and the police asks me when I became aware of the kid's health issue, I'd prefer to honestly answer "When he got the asthma attack", rather than "Oh yeah, his parents told me this morning, but it didn't look serious at the time" – Dmitry Grigoryev Sep 15 '17 at 10:22
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    @RobP. Don't you expect teachers to have first aid training, and to recognize symptoms of "unable to breathe"? – ChrisW Sep 16 '17 at 17:55
  • @ChrisW - sure. In my state teachers are required to have first aid training, but not required to pass any certification to objectively demonstrate their mastery. Still, in a loud classroom with 20-30+ children how long would it take a teacher with a CPR class or two to notice one child's nasal flaring? For comparison, a fully trained RN would never be expected to watch even 20 patients and in some states even half of that would be illegal. And while it's say to say, 'But it's just ONE child', in practice other children are likely to also have medical issues too. – Rob P. Sep 16 '17 at 19:40
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Pretty much what you said here. "Please keep an extra close eye on Johnny right now. He has asthma which is usually well controlled, but a cold or flu seems to exacerbate his symptoms. If you notice he seems to be having difficulty breathing or you feel he looks especially unwell, please send him immediately to the nurse/office. We appreciate your attention and hope it doesn't become necessary, but wanted to make sure you're aware in case it does."

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    Thank you. I saw the answer from @Stephie first, so I gave her the check, but your answer supplemented her answer and increased my overall good feeling about the thing. – dgo Sep 11 '17 at 15:03
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    If I were the teacher reading this, my first thought would be "you are sending your child to school with a cold or flu?" – Wayne Conrad Sep 13 '17 at 21:44
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    Yes. It is rare for schools to not allow a sick child in. Most want that money they get. And if your child has a chronic illness, missing for small things like a cold could result in them being flunked or require summer school. So yes, most parents sent sick children to school. – DCook Sep 14 '17 at 11:41
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    @WayneConrad - I think its a matter of degrees. In this case, my son had a cold that was fairly minor. That's the caveat though, his minor colds can become a problem fairly quickly, but mostly they don't. He doesn't get sick much, but if I were to keep him out of school for every time he had a minor cold, he would miss a great deal of school unnecessarily. However, if he has more than a minor cold, we keep him home. In my estimation, we are way more lenient in that regard than my parents were - we are more likely to err on the side of keeping him home. – dgo Sep 14 '17 at 16:16
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What is okay to ask of from my child's teacher regarding his physical health?

It's often not OK to ask the school to give medicine or other medical care (or it may be OK but only if you give them the medicine and a doctor's prescription for it).

It is OK (I expect it's required) to inform the school of any particular health risks (including allergies).

It is OK to ask the school to keep an eye on children's health, i.e. on whether they're well enough to be at school.

It is OK to expect the school to provide first aid in an obvious emergency ... beware that the "first aid" they can provide may be minimal, may involve just phoning an ambulance.

It is not OK to expect the school to nurse a child who's too sick for school ... they're likely to prefer the child to be at home: if they're infectious; if they can't keep up; or if they even distract the teacher too much from the rest of their class.

Given that the teacher cares about the child's well-being and acts in loco parentis to some extent, I'm pretty sure the teacher would want to know, would rather you told them than didn't.

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    Downvote if you want to but I'd prefer a comment (or even an edit) ... it seems to me that what I wrote is obviously true ... but if it's not true isn't it better to correct it? – ChrisW Sep 11 '17 at 15:42
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    Looks useful to me. Thanks. Good guidelines – dgo Sep 11 '17 at 17:58
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Yes, it is appropriate.

When you send your son to school, your son's teacher becomes his guardian, and is obligated to look after his physical and mental health to the best of their knowledge and abilities in your absence.

3

I saw literally this exact interaction today at drop-off; apparently another child in my son's class has the same exact issue, and her mom handled it in exactly the way you propose. The teacher was concerned for the child's welfare and appreciative that the mother gave her that information, and let her know exactly what they'd do in regards talking to the nurse or contacting the parent.

The only thing I'd suggest is make sure to include an option for the teacher to send for you to pick the child up if the child becomes ill; the biggest concern teachers often have is that they will end up with a child who is noticeably ill disrupting class (and having a poor experience in class), preventing them from teaching the other children, because of parents who treat school like a daycare service (not that you should send the kids to daycare ill either!).

As long as you're able to offer the teacher your assurance that you can pick up your child if he is ill and not able to continue in class, I think they will appreciate the heads up and the information.

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    The only thing I'd suggest is make sure to include an option for the teacher to send for you to pick the child up if the child becomes ill - i did end up doing this. I happen to work from home and live a mile from the school, and told the teacher this. Ended up being unnecessary, as he was fine, but I agree that it's a good point to have mentioned. Cool that you saw the exact same thing at about the same time - :) – dgo Sep 13 '17 at 1:42
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I agree with the other answers that it is a good idea to communicate this information to the teacher, and the teacher will more than likely be happy to keep an eye on the issue.

However, rather than emailing this directly to the teacher, after your son has gone to school, you should call the office. Elementary school teachers are "on stage" virtually all day long, sometimes even during lunch, and often cannot check their email until after the kids have gone for the day.

If you are able to email a day or two ahead of time that is a great option, but sometimes you don't know you need to communicate with the teacher until the day has started. If it's not possible to talk to the teacher in person and you don't trust your young child to deliver the note promptly, calling the office is the best bet. They will be able to relay important messages to the classroom for you, and will also be able to notify anyone else who should have the information (like the school nurse).


I realize at this point you've probably communicated or not with your son's teacher, but thought I would post this for the benefit of others who might have a similar question in the future.

  • I actually disagree with this point - though I don't think it's a bad point - in my experience with the teachers in my sons district so far, they get emails immediately, and there is no need to worry about nuances getting lost in translation. Still, in some situations, I'm sure your right. So, valid addendum. – dgo Sep 13 '17 at 1:44
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This is appropriate as long as you don't ask for anything that could be seen as performing a medical procedure, even by a long shot. E.g. asking to keep an eye on your son or call you if he's not feeling well is OK, but asking to give him a pill or help to use an inhaler is not, since that engages responsibility.

Depending on the school rules and local laws, reporting some conditions will result in the teaching not accepting to take your kid (this is mainly the case of transmissible infections), and not reporting such conditions can get you into trouble.

  • I expect they might give prescribed medication, including e.g. an EpiPen, but that's something to arrange/agree with the school in advance. – ChrisW Sep 16 '17 at 19:12
  • @ChrisW In the school where my kid goes, parents are explicitly told not to expect that. Of course, different schools may have different rules. – Dmitry Grigoryev Sep 19 '17 at 15:46
  • In my son's school, leaving medical supplies like an inhaler is permitted (though I think EpiPens are different for some reason), but it requires a form filled out by the doctor with explicit instructions and details. – dgo Sep 20 '17 at 12:59

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