GPs are important support for parents and carers of children with asthma in helping ensure they are ‘asthma ready’ for the school.
Every year there is a well-documented spike in asthma flare-ups when children 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?
This pattern is consistent with international studies after the long summer school holiday break in other countries too. 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.
The 2020 Back to School campaign
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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What role do GPs play?
GPs play a vital role in ensuring parents and carers of children with asthma are ready for the return to school:
- Remind parents of the importance of following their child’s Asthma Plan. As you know, preventer medication can take a few weeks to reach its full effect. Parents and carers should remain vigilant with their child’s prescribed preventer medication routine to ensure a safe return to school with good asthma control.
- If parents have ongoing concerns or questions about their child’s asthma, they can call 1800 ASTHMA (1800 278 462) our free telephone information and education service, to speak with an Asthma Educator.
- If you think they might benefit from ongoing education and support, refer your patients to our COACH Program®.
- Identify the child’s key triggers, clearly list these on their Asthma ActionPlan and provide advice on trigger avoidance or management.
- Always refer to the National Asthma Council, Australia. The Australian Asthma Handbook (2019) for best practice asthma guidelines.
- Remind parents and young people about the Kiss myAsthma app – an asthma app designed for young people to help track symptoms, access your action plan, learn about asthma and set goals.
DISCUSS HOW PARENTS CAN HELP THEIR CHILD AT SCHOOL DURING POOR 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. PM2.5 from bushfire smoke has a cumulative impact on the body and people should limit exposure as much as possible given the prolonged exposure this season already.
In conversations with parents and children about their asthma management and updating their written Asthma Action Plan, be sure to discuss if they have experienced smoky conditions and if their child has shown symptoms from exposure.
Remind parents the importance of taking preventer medication every day and encourage them to discuss their child’s asthma management, particularly during smoky conditions, with their school.
For advice about what to do during periods of poor air quality, see our website: https://asthma.org.au/about-asthma/triggers/airquality/
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.
Additional asthma resources and information
The National Asthma Council, Australia. The Australian Asthma Handbook (2019)
NAC Australian Management Handbook – Providing asthma management education for parents & children http://www.asthmahandbook.org.au/management/children/education
Preparing written Asthma Action Plans for children http://www.asthmahandbook.org.au/management/action-plans/waap-children