National Asthma Council Urges Parents to Follow Back-to School Asthma Checklist20 January 2016
Starting school is scary enough without the added concern about your child’s asthma flaring up in the classroom or playground.
The National Asthma Council Australia warns that the one in 10 school children with asthma face a significant increase in the risk of asthma flare-ups or attacks and hospitalisation during the first few weeks of the school term.
For Natalie Bourne, it means additional preparations to ensure that her five year old son entering prep can recognise his symptoms and is comfortable about asking for help if he needs it.
“We’ve visited his doctor to make sure we have an up-to-date written asthma action plan with some extra copies for the school and his grandma,” Natalie said. “But it’s just as important to make sure he understands what to do if his asthma flares up – and so does his teacher.”
National Asthma Council Australia Director, Dr Bastian Seidel, GP, says that parents need to be ready for a surge in asthma emergencies when children return to classrooms for the start of the 2016 school year.
“There is well-documented evidence of a ‘February Epidemic’, a big asthma spike in children immediately after school goes back,” said Dr Seidel.
“When children return to classrooms, factors such as stress, a change of environment or allergens and less strict asthma management over the holidays can trigger asthma. A new set of classmates can also bring a new batch of cold and flu bugs, which are often the culprits behind asthma flare-ups.”
Studies in Australia and the UK have shown asthma hospitalisations surge during the first month of the school year, with cases in Australia rising as much as threefold in children aged five to 14 years and doubling in pre-schoolers. While increased risks have also been recorded at the start of subsequent school terms, the February spike is by far the most significant.
To help kids enjoy healthy and asthma symptom-free days, the National Asthma Council Australia urges parents and carers to plan ahead with this back-to-school asthma checklist:
- Have an up-to-date written asthma action plan prepared by your doctor
- Ensure your child gets back into their asthma routine before the school year starts, including taking preventer medications every day if prescribed
- Ensure your child knows how to use their puffer by themselves (if old enough), or with help
- Have a check-up before the school year ramps up or sports lessons start to make sure things are going as well as can be
- Pack a reliever puffer and spacer in your child’s school bag, checking that the puffer isn’t empty or out of date.
- Ensure your child feels comfortable asking for help or telling their teacher if they are getting asthma symptoms
- Give the school and/or childcare a copy of your child’s asthma action plan and tell teachers and staff if your child requires help using their puffer
- Talk to school administrators about possible asthma triggers and whether staff members receive training on how to recognise and respond to asthma symptoms.
Dr Seidel recommended parents give the school a copy of their child’s asthma action plan and tell staff if their child requires help with taking medication. A copy should also be given to anyone who regularly has the child in their care, such as grandparents or sports coaches.
“Preventer medications need to be taken, when prescribed. Both children and carers have to be familiar with their reliever medication and know how to use it correctly,” Dr Seidel said. “Taking these preventative measures before and during the first few weeks of school can go a long way to helping keep children with asthma out of hospital.”
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