NHS urges parents to remember their children’s inhalers as back-to-school week ‘triples the risk of them needing medical help’
- Children aged from one to 14 at heightened risk of asthma attack in September
- Experts said it’s probably because of coughs and colds spread in the classroom
- The NHS is urging parents to send their children to school with a spare inhaler
The NHS has urged parents to provide their children with a spare inhaler this week as the risk of an asthma attack spikes when youngsters go back to school.
Figures show the number of asthma attacks for children aged between one and 14 triples when the semester starts in September.
Experts said this is probably because of coughs and colds spreading in the classroom, changing weather and children getting out of the habit of using inhalers during the summer break.
The number of asthma attacks for children aged between one and 14 triples when youngsters go back to school
Jacqueline Cornish, national clinical director for children and young people at NHS England, said: ‘Millions of families know that asthma can bring stress and trauma, but simple common sense measures like taking medicines at the right time.
‘Giving children a spare puffer to take to school and checking in with a pharmacist for inhaler checks, can help parents manage the annual onset of ‘asthma season’ and go a long way to helping keep your child well and out of hospital.’
Dr Andy Whittamore, clinical lead at Asthma UK and a practising GP, said: ‘The ‘Back to School’ effect of asthma can be frightening and potentially life-threatening for children returning to classrooms this week.
‘It’s easy for children to fall out of routines over the summer and forget to take their asthma medicines. This means their asthma is a ticking time bomb and then when they catch a cold or flu at school, they are at risk of having a potentially life-threatening asthma attack.
‘Parents can follow simple steps to cut the risk of their child having an asthma attack, such as giving the school a reliever inhaler for their child and a copy of their asthma action plan.
HOW TO USE AN INHALER CORRECTLY
There are many different types of inhalers, with metered dose varieties being the most common.
To use one of these correctly:
- Take the inhaler cap off and shake the device. This is required to ensure the medication is dispersed evenly throughout the inhaler
- If you have not used your inhaler in the past week, test it has medicine in it by spraying a bit of the medication away from you
- Take a slow, deep breath in and completely exhale without the inhaler
- Put the inhaler in your mouth. Push down on the top while breathing in for around five seconds
- Take the inhaler out of your mouth and hold your breath for around ten seconds
- If you need another dose of medicine, wait for about 30 seconds before repeating
Source: Lloyds Pharmacy
‘They should also ensure that their child takes their preventer inhaler, this helps to build 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.’
In July, a report in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health analysed the number of visits to GPs for asthma between 2012 and 2016.
They found that rates of GP appointments for asthma fell during school holidays, followed by an increase at the beginning of September.
A&E visits for worsening asthma also peaked at the start of the school year.
Daily visits to GPs were more than three times as high in the back to school period as during the summer holidays for children up to the age of four. And it was more than twice as high for five to 14 year olds.
Experts said coughs and colds, mould and changing weather are all possible reasons for the spike in cases.
Researchers said that multiple factors are likely to be involved including changes in the weather, air pollution, the stress of starting a new school year, and seasonal increases in circulating viruses.
‘These results support the need for further preventable work to reduce the impact of [back to school] asthma in children,’ they concluded. The figures were released by Public Health England.
More than 12,700 people died from an asthma attack in England and Wales in the past decade, the ONS data shows.
Last year alone, the condition killed over 1,400 people; an eight per cent increase from the number of fatalities in 2017. It was also a 33 per cent rise from the 1,071 deaths in 2008.
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