Back to school asthma awareness

Did you know that Australian studies have shown up to 25% of children’s hospital admissions for asthma happen in February?

Many factors come together to cause a surge in asthma flare-ups that coincidently occur in the first few weeks back at school, including:

  • Children not taking medication as prescribed during the summer holidays
  • The stress of returning to school
  • Allergic triggers at school such as mould and dust
  • An increase in respiratory viruses being passed from one child to another in the close quarters of the classroom.

So what can you do? Parents can prepare for their child’s return to school by checking their puffer is in date and easily accessible, either in their school bag or in the school office. Give an up-to-date copy of your child’s Asthma Action Plan  to the school, before and after school care, and anyone else who is looking after your child.

If you notice that your child is using more of their puffer (e.g. Ventolin or Asmol), make sure you take them to the GP to have their asthma reviewed.

When they’re at school, you may be less aware about how often your child is using their puffer, so ask them to keep you updated and keep an eye on how often you need to buy new medications for them.

Ensure they are taking their preventer regularly, either once or twice a day as prescribed.

The National Asthma Council Australia has put together the checklist below for the best chance of your child experiencing a symptom-free return to school:

  1. Book an asthma check-up with your health provider
  2. Give school staff an up-to-date copy of your child’s Asthma Action Plan
  3. Remind your child to let school staff know when their asthma is flaring up
  4. Explain to your child their asthma triggers and the importance of avoiding them
  5. If your child’s asthma is exercise induced, ensure they take their reliever prior to playing sport
  6. If your child is old enough, check they can effectively use their puffer independently or if they need assistance
  7. Ensure your child is taking asthma prevention medicine as prescribed
  8. It is recommended that all family members get the seasonal flu shot each year

Aiming for Asthma Improvement in Children (AAIC) is a NSW state-wide program coordinated by Clinical Nurse Consultants from Sydney Children's Hospital Randwick, Respiratory Department. The program provides free asthma information sessions delivered by Clinical Nurse Consultants for parents and carers either onsite at Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick or online via your webcam.

AAIC also provides asthma resources and training for school staff. Resources include a free eBook Asthma First-Aid Management in Schools, and the School Champion Asthma Management Program resource pack.

Dr Louisa Owens, Staff Specialist, Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick and National Asthma Council Australia Spokesperson.