Child asthma attacks surge 70% on return to classroom

The number of children in Scotland hospitalised for asthma attacks surges when they return to school after the summer holidays, according to new analysis by Asthma UK. Picture: TSPL
The number of children in Scotland hospitalised for asthma attacks surges when they return to school after the summer holidays, according to new analysis by Asthma UK. Picture: TSPL
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Asthma attacks skyrocket for Scottish children when they go back to school, with a 70 per cent increase in hospital admissions, according to new analysis.

Most recent figures from Asthma UK show a year-on-year trend of serious attacks spiking in August compared with the previous month, with these being triggered by greater exposure to cold and flu viruses in the classroom.

However, the same trend is not seen in adults. Lack of routine over the summer holidays means parents can forget to give their child vital preventer medicine, which works by building up resistance to germs over time to protect the airways.

Mould and changing weather are among the reasons more children are rushed to hospital at this time of year.

Children are in close proximity at school, so cold and flu germs spread more easily. The 70 per cent increase is based on the Scottish Government’s own information and represents a rise in emergency admissions for asthma from 65 in July to 117 in August between the ages of five and 19.

Sonia Munde, head of services at Asthma UK, says: “Going back to school should be an exciting time for children, but many end up in hospital fighting for life after an asthma attack.

“This is extremely distressing for a child and their parent. It could be avoided if parents know how to spot their child’s asthma is getting worse and know what to do if their child is having an asthma attack.”

She added: “Parents should not feel afraid to book an urgent appointment with the GP or asthma nurse if their child is using their reliever inhaler (usually blue) three or more times a week, coughing or wheezing at night or feeling out of breath and struggling to keep up with their friends.”

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said on average there are three children with asthma in every class in the UK. Between August and September 2015, emergency asthma admissions in England, Scotland and Wales for children under 14 tripled, from 1,089 to 3,203. Parents should ensure their children are taking preventer medication and book their child’s annual asthma review before the school term starts with their GP or asthma nurse. They should also ensure their child has a personalised asthma action plan and discuss this with their child’s teacher. Meanwhile children’s backpacks should contain their reliever inhaler, spacer and care plan.

Fiona Smith, the RCN’s professional lead for children, said: “Changes in routine during holidays, the stress and excitement of going back to school, as well as being exposed to new virus and colds, can leave children more vulnerable to asthma attacks.”