Keeping Your Child with SMA in School During the Cold and Flu Season

Vaidyanathan Subramaniam avatar

by Vaidyanathan Subramaniam |

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scoliosis in children with SMA

Photo by Joyce McCown on Unsplash

Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is a rare, neurodegenerative disease characterized by the loss of motor neurons, nerve cells that control voluntary movements.

Although the cognitive and mental abilities of children with SMA are not affected, they often require physical support and care. Colder times of the year, when levels of germs are high, can be particularly challenging for children with SMA.

Here are some tips to ensure that your child is least affected by the challenges of the cold and flu season during their school years.

Let the school know your child’s needs

SMA does not inhibit your child’s ability to learn, and going to school can help with discipline, social skills, and an ability to discover their interests and develop them. Talk to school officials, explaining the importance of showing special consideration to your child during the cold and flu season.

Acquaint helpers with the use of support systems

If the school provides or allows for a teacher’s aide or caregiver for your child, let the person know about the child’s symptoms and, if necessary, become acquainted with the use of breathing support systems such as BiPAP ventilators and cough assist machines.

Maintain personal hygiene

Washing hands frequently is absolutely important for preventing the transmission of germs. This is true for your child and for anyone who comes in contact with them, and school teachers, aides and officials should be reminded of this. During particularly tough cold and flu periods, a seating arrangement that minimizes contact between your child and other children might also be a good idea.

Get your child vaccinated in time

Infections such as the flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RVS) are quite common in children. It can help to get your child vaccinated before the flu or RSV season, so they are adequately protected. Your child — and your family, in some cases — may be requested to get a flu vaccine, or an RSV vaccine such as Synagis. The dosing and applicability of these vaccines differ for different people and depending on your geographic area, so check with your doctor first.

Ensure proper clearance of mucus

Children with SMA can find it difficult to clear accumulated mucus from their lungs. If your child does have a cold, ensure that you or a school aide are able to perform airway clearance at regular intervals. For tips and more information on clearing a sick child’s lungs, refer to our article on “Caring for a Child With SMA When They Have a Cold.”

Have a cough assist machine handy

Children with SMA often have a weak cough that is not effective enough to clear the lungs. A cough assist machine simulates a natural coughing action, and helps to clear the airways. You can use the machine as often as you feel is necessary to rid the lungs of mucus.

Check with school administrators if the machine can be stored in or near the child’s classroom, for easy access by an aide or caregiver when needed.

Get regular respiratory checkups

To ensure your child’s good performance in school, make sure to he or she has respiratory checkups at least once every three months, so that any breathing or coughing difficulties can be diagnosed and treated in time. It is also a good idea to consult with a chest physiotherapist, who would be able to recommend specific ways of clearing the lungs in the event of a cold or flu.


Last updated: Nov. 11, 2019


SMA News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.