Return-to-school asthma spike warning

25 January 2017

With kids about to return to school the Asthma and Respiratory Foundation is calling for preventive action to reduce the annual spike in asthma hospitalisations.

Teresa Demetriou, a nurse and the foundation's education and research general manager, said asthma attacks were particularly common for children when going back to school, especially following the long summer holiday.

She said studies had shown that viral infections were likely to be the main cause in the spike of asthma hospitalisations. Other causes included less strict asthma management over the holidays, a change in environment with greater exposure to allergens, and a change in emotions such as stress and anxiety.

“The best thing to do is be as prepared as possible,” said Demetriou and the foundation was urging parents and others to take preventative measures.

“Asthma Action Plans need to be provided to schools along with updated emergency contact details. Children need to be taking their preventer medication as prescribed if they have one, and bring their reliever inhaler to school.”

“Make sure your child knows what their triggers are so they can do their best to avoid them. It’s important to reduce exposure to germs, which includes washing hands with soap as needed. We also highly recommend all families with asthma to get their flu vaccination in March,” says Demetriou. 

In 2013 there were 3730 hospitalisations in New Zealand for asthma in children under the age of 15 – some of them having a potentially life-threatening attack.

Māori are 2.9 times and Pacific peoples 3.7 times more likely to be hospitalized with asthma than Europeans or other New Zealanders, and people living in the most deprived areas are 3.2 times more likely to be hospitalised than those in the least deprived areas.

The Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ has a free school asthma checklist to download on their website at: asthmafoundation.org.nz

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