Media Releases

Be ready for back-to-school asthma spike

20 Jan 2020

The National Asthma Council Australia is calling on GPs to help young patients be well prepared for this year’s back-to-school asthma spike.

With many areas still affected by Australia’s bushfires and smoke haze, asthma flare-ups at school could be particularly high, resulting in increased GP appointments and hospital presentations.

Asthma Council CEO Siobhan Brophy says there is typically a sharp rise in children being admitted to hospital with asthma in February, thought to be due to a change of environment or allergens, shared viruses from new classmates, and less strict asthma management over the holidays.

‘The added factors of smoke and hazardous air quality from fires, coupled with high emotions such as stress and anxiety, are also likely to trigger asthma symptoms.

‘GPs can help get children asthma-ready for school by asking parents about their child’s asthma control experience over summer, whether they have an up-to-date asthma plan and medications, and by conducting a full asthma check-up,’ says Ms Brophy.

With latest statistics from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2017-18) showing that one third of Australian children with asthma aged up to 14 years still do not have a written asthma action plan, it’s an opportune time to start the conversation with patients.

‘Going back to school should be an exciting time for kids. Having a written plan shared with school staff and taking preventative measures before and during the first few weeks of school can go a long way to keeping children with asthma out of hospital.

‘I’d also urge doctors to check the latest paediatric management recommendations in the Australian Asthma Handbook, as these were updated in early 2019 as part of our last major review,’ says Ms Brophy.

The Asthma Council has the following tips to help prepare children with asthma for the new school year:

  • When children with asthma present for any reason, ask about their asthma and whether they are ready for asthma when at school.
  • Make sure each child has an up-to-date written asthma action plan and the child and/or parents understand how to follow it.
  • Remind parents to get their child back into their asthma routine before the school year starts, including taking preventer medications every day, if prescribed.
  • Conduct a full asthma check-up before the school year starts, or at least before activities like sports or other physical activities start, to ensure all is as well as it can be.
  • Take the opportunity to check that the child and/or parents are using inhalers correctly.

One in nine children in Australia have asthma and it is the leading cause of chronic disease in children aged five to 14 years.

Studies in Australia and the UK have shown asthma hospitalisations surge during the first month of the school year, with cases in Australia tripling in children aged five to 14 years and doubling in pre-schoolers.

GPs can refer patients wanting more information to the Asthma Council’s Sensitive Choice program, which has a series of factsheets on back-to-school and other issues for children.

The National Asthma Council website also has a wide range of resources and information for health professionals including how-to-videos, information papers and clinical guidelines.

Media enquiries

For further information, or to arrange an interview with a National Asthma Council Australia spokesperson, please contact:
 McCoy, The Reputation Group
0417 362 768
[email protected]