18 May 2020

Back to classrooms: Good hygiene to help limit asthma triggered by colds and flu 

After weeks of social distancing and students transitioning back to schools, kids will be looking forward to mingling with school friends again, which may see the spread of the common cold, viruses and influenza known to trigger asthma flare-ups and hospitalisations.

Asthma Australia is encouraging students and parents alike, to keep up the excellent hand washing, get the flu shot, and for students with asthma to take their asthma medication each day as prescribed to ensure they are asthma ready.

CEO Michele Goldman said, “during the COVID-19 pandemic, we learnt how to stop the spread”, and she explained why this is a big help for students with asthma as they head back to school.

“While asthma does not appear to be a risk factor for the Coronavirus, we know common viruses impact children and teens with asthma greatly, particularly at back to school time each year. We want students with asthma to stay fit and well as they head back to classrooms.”

Ms Goldman said stopping the spread of common viruses with the same level of diligence as the Coronavirus, and getting the flu shot, is a great place to start.

“It could help the one in nine students in every classroom from experiencing asthma, as well as better overall health,” she said.

Washing hands regularly for 20 seconds; sneezing or coughing into elbows; and trying not to touch the face, are all ways to help stop the spread.

Ms Goldman added “Staying at home when unwell is good for everyone. We’ve seen the value of social distancing in flattening the curve.”

“Good asthma control is an effective way to reduce risks of a flare-up,” she said.

Asthma Australia has been receiving calls from concerned parents via its 1800 ASTHMA telehealth service about sending their children with asthma back to school or day care.

“Take control of those things you can. Help your children to achieve good asthma control by taking their preventers daily even when well, and reinforce good personal hygiene,” advised Ms Goldman.

She advised that parents could book in to see their GP for an asthma review before school resumes in the classroom and before the winter months set in or call the 1800 Asthma telehealth line if they needed more guidance.

‘Back to school’ in February each year is an ordinarily high-risk time for children with asthma and returning to the classroom is a peak time for hospital presentations due to asthma flare-ups. This can cause children to experience additional illness and days off school.  These flare-ups can be attributed to the increased spread of germs, and relaxed approach to asthma medication use over the summer holidays.

“The same principals may apply now as students leave the home and see more of each other,” Ms Goldman said.

The risks of asthma attacks from colds, viruses or the flu can be reduced with regular preventer use, and according to Asthma Australia, a good benchmark is only needing to use a reliever puffer no more than twice a week or not experiencing asthma symptoms at all.

According to the Department of Health, optimal protection against influenza occurs within the first three to four months following vaccination, with peak season occurring from July to September.

If people would like to learn more about their child’s asthma, they can speak with a Asthma Educator by phoning 1800 ASTHMA (1800278462) or visiting www.asthma.org.au.