For many children living with asthma, the return to the classroom can also lead to a return to the doctor's office or even to a visit to a hospital as their asthma symptoms flare up. Here's how best to manage your child’s wellbeing during this transitional season.
When children across Europe head back to school after summer break, many will be packing asthma inhalers in their school bag alongside their textbooks. Having these medications on hand and using them as recommended by their healthcare professional is an important daily habit for school-aged children with asthma.
Studies have shown that children may be more susceptible to an asthma attack in the busy back-to-school season. In the United Kingdom, where one in 11 children has asthma, there is an uptick in emergency room visits for asthma attacks in the early autumn, just a few weeks after school begins . This “back-to-school effect,” occurs twice as often in boys and could account for nearly a quarter of serious incidents.
While experts say changes in the weather and increased exposure to viruses are among the triggers increasing the likelihood of an attack in the autumn, they also note that there are other possible causes for a surge in asthma-related issues. During the holiday season children are likely to follow less routines, such as taking their medicine in time, and be less active than in school.
The Schools Indoor Pollution and Health study funded by the European Commission in 2011-2012 showed a link between air quality inside schools and asthma exacerbations. Allergens and indoor pollutants can lead to children experiencing flare-ups in their asthma symptoms especially during the colder months, when they spend large chunks of time inside.
Studies have shown an improvement for these symptoms after building maintenance including repairing air filtration sys tems or reducing mold exposure in the building.
There’s a lot that parents can do to help children to ease the transition back into a school schedule. As children may be more susceptible to symptoms if they have been less consistent in using their regular medications during the summer holidays, setting a medication plan and sticking to it – even on days when the routine varies – is important. Keeping up with preventative medication throughout the summer holidays is key to preventing a child's asthma symptoms from becoming worse.
Another way that you can support your children is to work with them to create a routine that allows them to independently use preventative medicine and to remain mindful of triggers. The non-profit Asthma UK organisation recommends young people create an asthma action plan with the help of their parents and their doctor. Updated as part of a yearly health review, the asthma action plan should note what sets off asthma and includes what steps to take if a child experiences an asthma attack.
Parents should share the action plan with teachers or a school nurse, who can assist your child if any symptoms flare up and be aware of any triggers that might cause him or her a trouble.
Overall, a good asthma management supports your child’s wellbeing at school and at the same time also your child’s learning abilities. By maintaining healthy habits in line with your doctor’s advice, your child can enjoy the life at school fully.
By Courtney Tenz
Photo by iStock
Asthma UK. (2019). Your Children's Asthma Action Plan. https://www.asthma.org.uk/advice/child/manage/action-plan/
Bundle, Nick, Verlander, Neville Q., Morbey, Roger, et al. (2019). Monitoring epidemiological trends in back to school asthma among preschool and school-aged children using real-time syndromic surveillance in England, 2012-2016. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. https://jech.bmj.com/content/73/9/825.info
Pike KC, Akhbari M, Kneale D, Harris KM. (2018) Interventions to Prevent Asthma Attacks in Children Upon Return to School in the Autumn. https://www.cochrane.org/CD012393/AIRWAYS_interventions-prevent-asthma-attacks-children-upon-return-school-autumn
Royal College of Nursing. (2018). Children going back to school are at higher risk of asthma attacks. https://www.rcn.org.uk/news-and-events/news/children-going-back-to-school-are-at-higher-risk-of-asthma-attacks
Zorica Zivkovic, Sofija Cerovic, Jasmina Jocic-Stojanovic, Vesna Vekovic, Snezana Radic. (2014) Respiratory Health, Indoor Air Pollution and Asthma Burden in School Age Children. European Respiratory Journal. 44: P4955 https://erj.ersjournals.com/content/44/Suppl_58/P4955