Updated 01/25/12 – 6:10 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — The Chicago Board of Education has approved a new plan to make sure that teachers are ready to help the thousands of kids with asthma in public schools.

Under the plan, the Chicago Public Schools would mail each student’s family a questionnaire asking whether their child has asthma, what medication the child might need, and what precautions are needed to prevent asthma attacks from occurring in school.

Amy Zimmerman, Executive Director of the Chicago Medical-Legal Partnership for Children, said this will sensitize the teacher to the possible problems facing the child. The teacher will know if an inhaler is needed and used and where to find it if that child has an asthma attack.

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The program will also allow teachers to know how to avoid triggers for asthma, such as keeping kids indoors during recess or gym when temperatures are low.

“If the weather is, if it’s very, very cold, yes, you would take them inside,” Zimmerman said. “It’s not that you would have them sitting in a corner, you would just find another type of physical activity for them if they were going, for example, going outside for gym.”

Schools would also be able to know how to minimize other triggers like pesticides or strong cleaning compounds.

“Fur can be a trigger, so if … there are pets in a classroom, that might be a trigger for a child,” Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman also said she thinks the school system’s estimate of 20,000 students with asthma is about 50 percent too low.

The school board also approved a new measure to supply all schools with epipens by the next school year to make sure medication is on hand to treat allergic reactions that could prove deadly to students. Epipens are life-saving injections for people with severe reactions to certain foods.

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