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 start a new year at school, but often it impacts on time off work for the parents/carers also.
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, sometimes preventer medicines are not taken daily as prescribed and Asthma Action Plans are not adhered to as strictly.
- The inevitable spread of viruses when children return to school and mix with each other.
What role do school staff play?
You can help families be prepared and reduce the wide-reaching impacts of an asthma flare-up.
- Encourage parents and carers to visit their local pharmacy
Throughout January and February 2020, TerryWhite Chemmart will be ensuring parents and carers of children with asthma have:
- reliever medication, spacer, and mask, all clearly labeled with their child’s details,
- an inhaler technique demonstration to ensure their child is getting the correct dose of medicine into the lungs, and
- understand the importance of talking with their child’s teacher and school about asthma management for their child.
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- Asthma First Aid
It’s important you know what to do in the event of an asthma emergency. Learn the important steps for asthma first aid and how to save a life https://asthma.org.au/about-asthma/how-we-can-help/first-aid/
- Complete asthma online training
Asthma Australia’s Asthma First Aid for School Staff is available online for free. Training takes about an hour and includes risk management strategies for schools and addresses applicable guidelines and legislation. A section on Thunderstorm Asthma was added to address the possibility of such an event occurring during school time.
A recertification course provides a faster update option for staff who are wanting to refresh their asthma training more frequently – meeting the need for annual updates as now required by some schools, with a certificate generated as proof of completion.
For more information on Asthma Australia’s Asthma First Aid for School Staff online training, click here.
- Talk with parents
- Asthma is different for everyone. When meeting with parents discuss their child’s asthma, including their symptoms, triggers, and severity.
- School staff can use the Asthma 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.
- Inform them of your school’s asthma policy and establish two-way communication channels around the student’s asthma, including reporting of any flare-ups and use of medication at school.
- Let parents know about Kiss myAsthma – an asthma app designed for young people to help track symptoms, access your action plan, learn about asthma and set goals.
- Update school weather policies to include air quality
Back to school 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. In light of the recent poor air quality due to bushfires children with asthma are especially susceptible to an asthma flare-up.
Asthma Australia encourages all schools to take steps now to ensure their extreme weather policies include air quality. This might involve;
- Training all staff in Asthma First Aid,
- Obtaining an Asthma Action Plan for children with asthma,
- Identifying a clean air shelter at the school,
- Checking air quality regularly, and
- Adjusting plans like outdoor sports when air quality is poor or worse.
Please note, while face masks have been recommended for use by people at high risk during the smoky conditions, they are not recommended for children under 12 as they are not considered safe or effective. Facemasks must be form fitting and generally children’s faces are too small to create a tight seal.
Read more about air quality and asthma here