For the one in nine Australian children living with asthma, going back to school can increase the likelihood of an asthma attack.
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. In Australia, approximately 20% to 25% of children’s hospital admissions for asthma occur in February.
Childhood asthma peaks in primary school aged kids and affects mainly boys, however the group at highest risk from asthma death in childhood is adolescent boys.
Dr Louisa Owens, Respiratory Paediatrician and National Asthma Council Australia spokesperson, says that in the lead up to the new school year parents and carers should identify contributing factors to children’s asthma flare-ups and take steps to help prevent them.
"Possible causes for flare-ups in February include not taking medication as prescribed during the summer holidays; the stress of returning to school; allergic triggers at school such as mould and dust and close quarters with new classmates who can bring a new batch of cold and flu bugs.
“For parents and carers, if you see your child is using more of their blue reliever (e.g. Ventolin or Asmol), make sure you take them to the GP to have their asthma reviewed,” said Dr Owens. “When at school, you may be less aware about how often your children are using the puffer, so you need to ask them to keep you updated as well as keeping an eye on how often you are needing to buy new medications for them.
“Following a GP prescribed treatment plan and properly managing a child's air quality and environment, such as help them avoid smoke, can truly transform a child's life, allowing them to perform better in school, build confidence in sports and simply get outside and play."
By following this checklist parents can help increase the likelihood of children with asthma having a symptom-free return to school:
The National Asthma Council has useful resources available on its website www.nationalasthma.org.au to help parents navigate a healthy and safe return to school for their children. This includes video tutorials demonstrating the proper use of asthma medications.
For media interested in speaking with an asthma expert about managing asthma symptoms when heading back to school, please contact:
Lelde McCoy, The Reputation Group