Spring's a wheeze: keeping kids healthy this asthma season

Spring has sprung and with the warmer weather comes the dust and pollen that can trigger serious respiratory conditions, especially for children with asthma. Ten per cent of Australian children have asthma, making it one of the most common reasons for presentation to emergency departments and admission to hospital each year.

Dr Louisa Owens, head of the Respiratory Department at Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick (SCH) says the key to living well with asthma is proper management, and with the threat of COVID-19 already presenting a serious risk to chronically ill patients, our respiratory teams were quick to act, embracing technology to provide a home-based solution to caring for their patients.

Thanks to the generous support of the Manildra Group, the Network was able to provide eligible patients with a home spirometer. This meant that patients could meet their specialist’s virtually, over video consultation, and continue monitoring their lung function just as they would at their in-hospital appointments. The unique functionality of the device allows specialists to keep track of their patient’s progress via an information portal,” says Dr Owens.

This simple tool proved invaluable for long-term SCH patient, Robbie, who suffers from chronic asthma.   A rapid decline in lung-function was detected during her regular telehealth appointment, prompting a simple tweak to medication and preventing her from a serious attack, and potentially an urgent race to the emergency department.

Robbie has suffered breathing issues from a very young age, diagnosed with asthma when she was just five, she is now 17 and still suffers from ‘flare-ups’ and asthma attacks that result in hospitalisation, often several times a year.

When COVID-19 hit, I was definitely concerned. It can be very serious for people with healthy lungs, so not knowing what might happen to me should I contract COVID-19, I didn’t want to take unnecessary risks with my health,” says Robbie. 

Following the success of Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network, who were the first hospitals in Australia to unite this home-based technology with in-hospital clinical care, many hospitals across the country are now using the same or similar tools to care for patients with chronic respiratory issues; keeping more patients at home instead of in hospital. 

This Asthma Week we’re encouraging both children and adults suffering from asthma to prepare or update their asthma action plan and speak with your specialist for information on how you can better manage your asthma. We’re all be breathing a little easier this season, knowing that our patients are well supported.

Aiming for Asthma Improvement in Children have produced a variety of free resources to help children with asthma and their carers. Visit asthmainchildren.org.au for more information on education sessions, specialist resources and also training for school staff.

 Spiro-home devices generously donated by long-term supporter of Sydney Children’s Hospitals Foundation, the Manildra Group.