Last updated on 16/01/2020

Asthma ready at back-to-school time

When Tracy Ellem thinks ahead to the back-to-school routine for her two children, there are always a couple of extra things she makes sure to do.

As an asthma educator and the parent of an 11-year-old son with asthma, she knows the return to the classroom is a high-risk time for children with asthma, when there is a surge in symptoms, flare-ups and hospital admissions.

“Each year in the holidays we always go and see the GP to recap on everything that is going on and make sure that everything is as it should be,” she says.

“It’s also important to have an updated Asthma Action Plan.

Asthma Facts and Figures

According to hospital data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, asthma admissions peak during late February for children aged for children aged between five and 14 years.

In 2017, the rate of admissions was four times higher during the early school year than in January.

While the exact causes of the spike are unknown, it is believed to be linked to a reduction in the use of preventer-medication over the summer holidays when symptoms are reduced.

Other factors are believed to be the impact of viruses when students return to school, allergens, and stress.

But there are ways to try and minimise the risk of an asthma flare-up.

Routine care for asthma

Ms Ellem says she is mindful her son follows his asthma routine during the school holidays, even when he has no symptoms, to maintain effective asthma management.

“We’ve had that conversation where we’ve had a break and [he] will be going back into that environment where there are more bugs,” she says.

“He has had that education right the way through.

“[Children with asthma] should be taking their medication right throughout the holidays.”

Back to School Asthma Checklist

Here are some of our Back to School Asthma items for parents to tick off their list, or teachers to inform their students’ families:

Visit your family doctor and pharmacist

Visit a doctor to update your child’s written Asthma Action Plan and visit your local pharmacy to buy the appropriate medication – often a combination of relievers, preventers and a spacer.

Discuss with the pharmacist the way your child uses their medication – especially the effective use of a spacer.

Chatting to teachers about your child’s asthma

Once school has gone back, speak with your child’s teacher. Advise educators and school staff your child has asthma, tell them about their Asthma Action Plan, and give the school an extra reliever medication and spacer. This is to be used in the event of an asthma flare-up at school.

Ms Ellem says it is important to maintain an ongoing conversation with the school and teachers, in the event of changing asthma medications or treatments.

Also, she points out when students start at a different school – for example moving from primary school to high school – they must make sure the educators know about the child’s asthma and correct management.

You can also discuss the school’s asthma policy with teachers and school staff.

Talking to your child or student about their asthma

It is also a good idea to speak with your child/student, to remind them to tell their teachers when they experience symptoms, and any triggers they might be aware of.

Be Asthma-Ready

As children return to school, Asthma Australia wants parents, teachers and kids to be “asthma-ready”.

February is often a time of increased risks of asthma flare-ups when kids can experience more symptoms. There are increased presentations and admissions for asthma to hospital.

Check-in with your child’s doctor for an asthma review and up-to-date Asthma Action Plan, to visit your local pharmacy to purchase spare asthma medication and check spacer technique and to talk with school staff about your child’s asthma management.


Asthma support for parents and carers

If you think you or your students’ families would benefit from a free asthma information service that aims to support you and your family in better managing asthma, Asthma Assist is for you!

Helping more than 32,000 people across Australia, this service offers upon sign up:

  • An Asthma Toolkit including helpful brochures, Asthma Action Plan, educational videos, plus more!
  • A subscription to our e-newsletter, jam-packed with updates on asthma management, latest research, and what Asthma Australia is doing to better support the one in nine Australians with asthma.

If you have any further questions regarding our Asthma Assist service, please contact our Asthma Educators on 1800 ASTHMA (1800 278 462) or email us at

Asthma resources for schools

The Schools Health Check is designed to help schools review and evaluate their asthma management readiness.

The Schools Health Check offers support and enhances student, staff, and visitor asthma management daily and in the event of an asthma emergency.

Click here to do your school health check today.

For more information about understanding your child or student’s transition back to school, we’re here to assist.

Contact us or call 1800 278 462