Media Releases

Back to school - increased risk for asthma spike

28 Jan 2021

General Practitioners (GPs) are being urged to check that their paediatric asthma patients are ready for a healthy and safe return to the classroom to avoid the February “back-to-school asthma spike”.

Ms Marg Gordon, Registered Nurse, Asthma and Respiratory Educator at the National Asthma Council Australia said that going back to school should be an exciting time for kids, however, the return to school often coincides with asthma flare-ups, resulting in increased GP appointments and hospital presentations.

“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,” said Ms Gordon.

The sharp rise in children being admitted to hospital with asthma in February is thought to be due to a change of environment or allergens, sharing a new set of bugs with classmates which can trigger colds and respiratory infections and less strict asthma management over the holidays.

“While we haven’t had the widespread bushfires from last year, children going back to school and those attending for the first time, also have to contend with the effect of COVID-19.

“For the one in nine Australian children living with asthma, this could heighten emotions such as stress and anxiety that could trigger asthma symptoms and increase the likelihood of an asthma flare-up,” she said.

The most recent data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2017-18) shows that one third of Australian children with asthma aged up to 14 years still do not have a written asthma action plan, so it’s an opportune time to start the conversation with families.

“It’s important that doctors remind parents to share their child’s asthma action plan with school teachers, after school carers and sport coaches so they can be prepared should an asthma flare-up occur.

“It is also important that both children and their carers are familiar with their reliever medication and know how to use it correctly, so it is essential to review their device technique.

‘We are urging doctors to check the best practice clinical recommendations in the Australian Asthma Handbook to ensure each child is assessed and managed as per the guidelines,” said Ms Gordon.

The National Asthma Council Australia has issued the following clinical tips, which support best practice asthma care, to help doctors prepare paediatric patients 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.
  • Encourage parents to get their child to use a spacer with their inhaler.
  • Conduct a full asthma check-up before the school year starts, or before activities like sports or other physical activities start, to ensure asthma is as well controlled as it can be.
  • Take every opportunity to check that the child and/or parents are using inhalers correctly and that medications are not out of date.

National Asthma Council Australia’s Back to School Checklist:

More resources are available at including how-to video tutorials demonstrating the proper use of asthma medications.

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For further information or an interview with a National Asthma Council Australia spokesperson, please contact: 
Donna Le Page, Le Page PR
Mobile: 0429 825 703
Email[email protected]

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