Health professionals are an essential service and support for parents and carers of kids with asthma in helping ensure they are ‘asthma-ready’ for school.
Every year there is a well-documented spike in asthma flare-ups when kids return to school after the summer break. This results in an increased reliance on health care resources – Emergency Department visits, hospitalisations, and GP presentations – and days off school. Not only is this unsettling for kids 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?
There is an annual seasonal spike in asthma exacerbations seen in kids after long school holiday breaks reported not only in Australia, but across the globe. Our Asthma Educators tell us that major factors include:
- the loss of daily routine treatment over the summer holidays and Christmas period, when preventer medicines are not taken daily as prescribed and written Asthma Action Plans are not adhered to as strictly as during school terms
- the inevitable spread of viruses when kids return to school and mix with each other
- and the possible change of environmental allergens between home and school, triggering allergies or hay fever which can trigger asthma.
AN ‘ASTHMA-READY’ RETURN TO SCHOOL- WHAT ROLE CAN YOU PLAY?
Health professionals play a vital role in ensuring parents and carers of kids with asthma are ready for the return to school:
- Always refer to the Australian Asthma Handbook for best practice asthma guidelines.
- Ensure children have an up-to-date written Asthma Action Plan for everyday use and for use at school. If not, undertake an Asthma Review to develop or update their plan.
- Remind parents of the importance of following their child’s written Asthma Action Plan and knowing the signs of worsening asthma and when to seek medical attention.
- Ensure patients are on the right medicines and that parents/carers understand their child’s medicines including treatment options. Explore and debunk medicine myths, particularly around inhaled corticosteroids. Explain any recent medicine changes and what these may mean for their child’s ongoing asthma management and when they should seek follow-up. Schedule recall or book this next review appointment.
- Ensure your patient has a spacer (and mask if age appropriate) and both parent/carer and child (if age appropriate) demonstrates correct device technique at each review.
- Identify with the parent/carer the child’s key asthma triggers and ensure these are clearly listed on their written Asthma Action Plan. Provide advice on trigger avoidance or management. A symptom diary or the Kiss myAsthma app can help parents with trigger identification if they are unsure or the child is newly diagnosed.
- Encourage download of the Kiss myAsthma app, developed specifically for young people. The app helps to monitor symptoms, reminds them when to take medicines and lets them upload a copy of their written Asthma Action Plan to keep on hand.
- Prompt patients/parents and carers to download the Asthma First Aid app and know how to use it.
- Discuss with parents concerns around environmental asthma triggers – returning to school during poor air quality, thunderstorm asthma alerts and the difference between asthma, hay fever and COVID-19 symptoms. Develop a plan on what to do in the event of high pollen days/poor air quality days, treatments and plans for managing hay fever and testing for COVID-19.
- Prompt parents and carers with ongoing questions or concerns about their child’s asthma to call 1800 ASTHMA (1800 278 462) – our free telephone information and education service – to speak with an Asthma Educator. You can also refer any patients over three years old here.
- Reassure parents and carers that the overall aims of asthma treatment are to reduce the risk of flare-ups, make sure asthma does not interfere with play or school attendance, and to minimise the side effects of treatment by using the lowest level of medicine required to maintain good asthma control.
ADDITIONAL ASTHMA RESOURCES AND INFORMATION
National Asthma Council Australia Australian Asthma Handbook v2.2
National Asthma Council Australia Australian Asthma Handbook – Providing asthma management education for parents & kids http://www.asthmahandbook.org.au/management/children/education
Preparing written Asthma Action Plans for kids http://www.asthmahandbook.org.au/management/action-plans/waap-children
Asthma Australia is prompting schools to use a copy of a child’s asthma action plan as the accepted plan. Parents/carers can use their child’s asthma action plan for both home and school providing consistency in care of their child’s asthma. Use of the Asthma Care Plan for Education and Care Services found in our Resources Section will be phased out from schools and school guidelines in the near future.
Free accredited education for health professionals via ThinkGP
Asthma Toolkit for patients and families
ASCIA Allergic Rhinitis treatment plan
National Asthma Council Australia’s Asthma Handbook – managing allergic rhinitis in kids
Asthma symptom identification in kids animated video
What is a spacer and why is it so important to use? animated video
Flo is a campaign partner of Asthma Australia and has not been involved in the development of this web page/content.