Children with asthma could be at risk when they return to school

Parents need to ensure children remember to take their inhalers.
Parents need to ensure children remember to take their inhalers.

Thousands of children in Scotland could be at risk of having a life-threatening asthma attack as they return to school after the summer holidays.

The charity Asthma UK says that changes in routine over the summer holidays mean children may forget to take their preventer medicine, leaving them more exposed to asthma triggers like cold and flu viruses.

Nine in 10 children with asthma find colds and flu trigger their symptoms.

Asthma UK has revealed that last year, hospital admissions for children aged 5 to 14 increased by nearly 70 per cent in August when children returned to school, compared to the previous month.

The number of admissions was higher still in September, when it was more than double that of July.

Dr Andy Whittamore, Asthma UK clinical lead and a practising GP, said: “The ‘back to school effect’ of asthma should not be underestimated as it is not only detrimental to children’s education, but it could kill.

“This August, children should be in the classroom, learning and playing with their friends, not in hospital fighting for their lives after an asthma attack.

“Parents need to ensure children are taking their preventer inhaler which builds up protection in their airways over time so that if they come into contact with triggers such as colds they are less likely to have an asthma attack.

“Adults also need to know how to spot when their child’s asthma is getting worse, and know what to do if they have an attack Asthma UK says the number of children being hospitalised for their asthma when they return to school could be the ‘tip of the iceberg’ as many children might have potentially life-threatening asthma attacks but not get hospital treatment.

Around half of children under 18 who have an asthma attack don’t go to hospital but manage it themselves with their parents’ help, with some seeing their GP afterwards.

More than 72,000 children in Scotland have asthma.

The respiratory illness, which leaves people struggling to breathe, claimed the lives of 114 Scots last year.

Asthma UK’s Helpline on 0300 222 5800 (Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm) offers the opportunity to speak to an asthma nurses about how to manage your child’s asthma and how to talk to their school about their asthma.

For further information on how to protect your child when they’re back in school this August, visit www.asthma.org.uk/back-to-school.

The following are signs that children are at risk of having an asthma attack:

• Needing to take their reliever inhaler (usually blue) three or more times a week;

• Coughing and/or wheezing, or saying their chest hurts;

• Breathlessness – if they’re pausing for breath when talking or struggling to keep up with friends;

• Waking up at night because of their asthma symptoms.

• Some children might say their tummy hurts as well - get to know your child’s individual asthma signs.

• If parents notice any of these symptoms, they should give their child two to four puffs of their reliever inhaler, through a spacer (waiting 30-60 seconds between each puff).

• If their symptoms don’t improve, or if their reliever inhaler isn’t lasting four hours, parents should make a same-day appointment for their child with their GP.

• If the surgery is closed, they should call 111 for advice.