Back to school: increased risk for asthma spike

Now that the school year has begun, the National Asthma Council Australia is urging health professionals to help avoid the February `back to school asthma spike.’

Marg Gordon, Registered Nurse, Asthma and Respiratory Educator at the National Asthma Council Australia says that going back to school should be an exciting time for children, 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,” says 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 says.

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 is 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” Ms Gordon says.

Click here for National Asthma Council Australia’s Back to School Checklist.

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

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