Every year there is a sharp rise in the number of asthma attacks for children when they return to school after the summer holidays. This results in a significant increase in Emergency Department visits, hospitalization and days off school which can be unsettling for children as they start a new school year.
You can help families be prepared for back to school and reduce the wide-reaching impacts of an asthma flare-up.
Asthma in children
Asthma has a significant impact on children:
Are you and your school ‘asthma ready’?
Here’s how you can be prepared and adequately manage asthma in your school, this new school year.
- Learn about asthma in children
It’s important that Education staff understand the asthma symptoms in children. For more information watch the video below and visit our asthma in children page.
- Encourage parents and carers to visit their health professionals (if they haven’t already done so)
- Update their child’s written Asthma Action Plan with the child’s regular doctor for everyday use and an Asthma Care Plan for use at school
- purchase additional reliever medication, spacer and mask (as needed) for use at school and ensure these are clearly labelled with their child’s details
- have an inhaler technique face to face check with their health practitioner to ensure their child is getting the correct dose of medicine into the lungs
- download the Kiss myAsthma app
- download the Asthma First Aid app
- Talk with parents and carers
- When meeting with parents and carers at the start of the new school year, discuss their child’s asthma, including their symptoms, triggers and severity.
- Ensure the child’s written Asthma Action Plan is current and if not, encourage them to visit their doctor for an Asthma Review of their child’s asthma and update of their Plan
- School staff can use the Asthma Plan as a tool to talk about the child’s asthma medication, how to use this and the extent to which the child can self-manage and administer their own medications
- Ask if the child has had any severe flare ups recently and what medications is he/she on? (to ascertain the severity of asthma)
- Ask if the child gets short of breath when exercising and participating in sports and if medications before exercise have been prescribed and added to the written Asthma Action Plan for the school to administer? If not, encourage the parent to book an Asthma Review appointment for their child with their doctor to help manage this trigger.
- 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
- Ensure your school is ready to manage asthma in children
- Train all staff in Asthma Awareness and Asthma First Aid. We offer a range of paid accredited and free online asthma training programs to support Education staff. Check out our Training for Schools section for detailed information on the training options available.
- Complete the Asthma Schools Health Check online tool to gauge your asthma management readiness
- Check your asthma management policies – update them as needed – sample templates are available to assist
- Read the new Asthma Guidelines for Australian Schools
- Order an Asthma Emergency Kit for your school – check that you have enough kits to service your school for on and off-site activities
- Download our suite of asthma resources and templates for schools
- Understand the difference between hay fever and COVID symptoms
- Update school weather policies to include air quality
Back to school is an ordinarily high-risk time for children with asthma, however during periods of smoky conditions due to bushfires they 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 a written Asthma Action Plan and Asthma Care Plan for children with asthma
- Updating school weather policies to include air quality
- Identifying a clean air shelter at the school
- Checking air quality regularly
- Adjusting plans like outdoor sports when air quality is poor or worse and in the event of a thunderstorm asthma or extreme weather warning
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
For more information on asthma in children call 1800 ASTHMA (1800 278 462)to speak with an Asthma Educator.
Bird Healthcare and Flo are campaign partners of Asthma Australia and have not been involved in the development of this web page/content.