How to manage asthma at school

It’s the end of the year, but being ‘asthma ready for schoolin 2021’ starts now!

Every year there is a sharp rise in the number of asthma attacks for children when they return to school after the summer break.  This results in a significant increase in Emergency Department visits, hospitalisations and days off school. Not only is this unsettling for children as they try to kick-start a new year at school, but often it impacts on time off work for parents and carers which can lead to work and financial strain on the family.

Why do asthma flare-ups happen at this time?

Our asthma experts tell us that major factors include:

  • With the loss of routine over the summer holidays and busyness of the Christmas period, sometimes preventer medicines are not taken daily as prescribed and written Asthma Action Plans are not adhered to as strictly.
  • The inevitable spread of viruses when children return to school and mix with each other
  • The possibility of new environmental allergens at school – not encountered in the home environment, or not encountered for some time.

Asthma in children

Asthma has a significant impact on children

What role do parents and carers play?

You can help your child be prepared and have a healthy start to the new school year.

1. Stay on top of your child’s asthma management over the holidays.

To ensure your child is prepared for the return to school download our Back to School checklist and following the steps below:

  • Check your child’s medications – are they still in date? Do they require replacing?
  • Keep vigilant with your child’s preventer medication and ensure you give or they take preventer as prescribed, even when well – this is the mainstay of asthma management
  • Ensure you pack your child’s asthma medication(s), spacer, and mask (if needed) on all holiday outings and if you go away
  • Ensure anyone who is caring for your child over the holidays has access to a copy of your child’s written Asthma Action Plan; medications; spacer and mask (if needed) and knows how to use them and who to contact in an emergency
  • See your doctor ideally before Christmas, for an Asthma Review to discuss recent asthma symptoms and control, medication use, triggers over spring and summer and consider any allergies or environmental triggers that affect your child.  Ask for an update to your child’s written Asthma Action Plan for everyday use and have you and your child undertake a face to face inhaler technique check with their doctor to ensure your child is getting the correct dose of medicine into their lungs
  • Recognize early signs of worsening asthma
  • Follow your child’s written Asthma Action Plan for a happy and healthy holiday
  • Understand your child’s triggers and take steps to avoid or manage them as discussed with their doctor and outlined on your child’s written Asthma Action Plan. Continue to monitor and manage allergies such as hay fever that can make asthma worse, discuss your child’s allergies with your doctor if you are concerned.
  • Follow COVID-19 social distancing and hygiene advice
  • Stay up to date on weather conditions and be aware of high pollen or poor air quality days particularly over the summer bush fire season

For more information visit our asthma in children page.

2. Visit your local pharmacy

Visit a pharmacy over the school break to:

  • purchase spare reliever medication, spacer, and mask (if required) ready for use at school – do you need more than one i.e.School office, Outside School Hours Care, Gym/Sports/Swim bag, the classroom emergency bag?
  • if not completed with your doctor already – have you and your child undertake a face to face inhaler technique check with the pharmacist to ensure your child is getting the correct dose of medicine into the lungs

3. Plan a talk with your child’s teacher

  • Asthma is different for every child.  When meeting with your child’s teacher next year, discuss your child’s asthma, including their symptoms and severity
  • You can use your child’s written Asthma Action Plan as a tool to talk about their asthma medication, how to use this (a demonstration could be helpful) and the extent to which they can self-manage and administer their own medication
  • Ask about your child’s school asthma policy and establish two-way communication channels around your child’s asthma, including reporting of any flare-ups and use of medication at school, particularly if needed before exercise – this needs to be documented by your doctor on the written Asthma Action Plan for the school – ask the school what they require from you
  • Do the school require more than one ‘set’ of reliever, spacer and mask (if required)?
  • Discuss the school’s Asthma Management Plan, what asthma education and Asthma First Aid training is provided to teachers and school staff
  • Ensure your school has an air quality plan
  • Book an appointment with your child’s doctor to obtain a written Asthma Action Plan for School (and an updated one for home if there are any changes made) now that you know what the school requires from you and your doctor.

4. Take the Asthma Control Test

For children over the age of 12 compete, an Asthma Control Test. A score under 20 indicates partially or poorly controlled asthma. Book a call with an Asthma Educator and book a doctor appointment to get your child back on track.

5. Talk with an Asthma Educator

Book a call over the holidays call 1800 ASTHMA (1800 278 462) to discuss your child’s asthma management with one of our Asthma Educators to be ‘back to school’ ready for 2021.

Additional asthma resources and information

Back to school checklist

Prevalence of asthma in children Infographic

Asthma Action Plan templates

Victorian Asthma Action Plan templates

Asthma Care Plan for Education and Care Services

Asthma Toolkit for families

Wheeze fact sheet (Parents of children under 6)

Bird Healthcare and Flo are campaign partners of Asthma Australia and have not been involved in the development of this web page.