Ensure your patients are asthma ready for school!
We recognize Health professionals are an essential service and support for parents and carers of children with asthma in helping ensure they are ‘asthma ready’ for 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 an increased reliance on health care resources – Emergency Department visits, hospitalisations, and GP presentations; 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?
There is an annual seasonal spike in asthma exacerbations seen in children 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 children 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
Asthma has a significant impact on children:
Asthma Australia has a bold goal to halve avoidable hospital presentations for asthma by 2030. There has been little improvement in asthma hospitalisations over the past decade. Of the nearly 40,000 hospitalisations for asthma in 2017/18, nearly half (44%) were for children aged 0-14.
Among school aged children, most of these are thought to be preventable through appropriate self-management and care in the primary health setting. New data and research is telling us the same old story – asthma is poorly understood and thus poorly managed.
The Back to School campaign
The 2021 Back to School campaign is a key health initiative to improve education and information for parents and carers to support them as they take the correct preventative steps to manage their child’s asthma in readiness for their return to school.
The campaign will run from 18 January until 26 February 2021 and will communicate an asthma prevention and preparation message that encompasses both the importance of year-round childhood asthma management as well as specific information about returning to school post the summer holiday break.
What role can you play?
Health professionals play a vital role in ensuring parents and carers of children with asthma are ready for the return to school:
- Always refer to the National Asthma Council, Australian Asthma Handbook (version 2.1) for best practice asthma guidelines
- Ensure patients have an up-to-date written Asthma Action Plan for everyday use and an Asthma Care Plan for use at school. If not, have patients undertake an Asthma Review with their treating doctor and to have an updated plan developed
- Remind parents of the importance of following their child’s written Asthma Action Plan over the school holidays, and knowing the signs of worsening asthma and when to seek medical attention
- Ensure patients are on the right medications and that parents/carers understand their child’s medication including treatment options, medication myths and truths are explored – particularly around inhaled corticosteroids, any recent medication changes and what these may mean for their child’s ongoing asthma management and when they should seek follow-up – book this in
- 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 and 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.
- Prompt patients to download the Kiss myAsthma app developed specifically for young people – to monitor symptoms, remind them to take medication and keep a copy of their written Asthma Action Plan 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
- Refer your patients over three years old to Asthma Australia, and they will receive free support from trained Asthma Educators via our 1800 ASTHMA phone service. If your patients need more comprehensive asthma self-management support, The COACH Program® is suitable for patients aged 12 years and over.
- 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 medication required to maintain good asthma control.
Additional asthma resources and information
National Asthma Council, Australian Asthma Handbook v2.1 http://www.asthmahandbook.org.au/
National Asthma Council, Australian Asthma 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
Asthma Action Plan templates https://asthma.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/AAAAP2020-Asthma-Action-Plan-A4_AA-Version_v6.5.pdf
Victorian Asthma Action Plan templates
- Victorian Schools Asthma Action Plan – Bricanyl Turbuhaler
- Victorian Schools Asthma Action Plan – Puffer and Spacer
- Victorian Schools Asthma Action Plan – Puffer Alone
Asthma Care Plan for Education and Care Services https://asthma.org.au/wp-content/uploads/About_Asthma/Schools/AACPED2018-Care-Plan-for-Schools-A4_2019.pdf
Free accredited education for health professionals via ThinkGP https://asthma.org.au/health-professionals/learn/
Asthma Toolkit for patients and families https://asthma.org.au/toolkit/
ASCIA Allergic Rhinitis treatment plan https://www.allergy.org.au/images/pcc/ASCIA_Allergic_Rhinitis_Treatment_Plan_2020.pdf
National Asthma Council, Australian Asthma Handbook – managing allergic rhinitis in children
Bird Healthcare and Flo are campaign partners of Asthma Australia and have not been involved in the development of this web page.