Alert – Children returning to school often have a greater chance of an asthma flare-up.
What is it and why does it happen?
Back to school asthma occurs not only in New Zealand but also all over the world. In the Southern Hemisphere it occurs in February - March as Children return to school after the long summer holidays. Children are mixing with other children increasing exposure to the viruses that are around in the community. This can lead to a spike in asthma flare-ups that require hospital or GP attendance. According to a recent research from Scotland, hospital admission rates are increased by 70% when children return to school 1. Many children have stopped or reduced their preventer use over summer as they have little or no symptoms during this time and are therefore at greater risk of a flare up due to viruses. This often means time away from school, and work for parents.
What can you do?
There are 4 steps that can be taken to help reduce the risk of flare-ups and keep your child asthma-safe at school. They are:
Asthma Management Plan – this should be reviewed and updated by your doctor as your medications may need to be changed. An asthma plan helps to identify what to do when unwell or in an emergency.
Medications – ensure that your child’s asthma medications are accessible at school. Ensure that inhalers are not empty or out of date. Medication should be taken as prescribed by your doctor. A spacer should be used at all times with a metered dose inhaler. Have your child’s inhaler technique checked by your doctor, practice nurse or asthma nurse educator.
Talk to your child’s teacher – Encourage your child to tell the teacher if they are feeling unwell with their asthma. The teacher should have a copy of the child’s action plan and it is important that they understand how it works. The school must be given your emergency contact details and these should be updated if changed.
Triggers – Know your child’s triggers and identify what triggers could be present in your child’s classroom. Common triggers that may be present are mould, dust, stress and/or anxiety, cleaning products and change of temperature (need to be aware when going from inside to outside and vice versa).
For further help and support, Asthma New Zealand’s nurses are available to provide in-depth education on asthma management for parents and schools.
Call Asthma New Zealand on 09 623 0236 or 0800 227 328
1 - Asthma UK analysis of bespoke data supplied by ISD Scotland, 2018. The 70 per cent increase represents an increase of emergency admissions for asthma from 65 in July to 117 in August (ages 5-19).