Warning over surge in asthma attacks as schools return

·4-min read
Concern over spike in asthma attacks among children as they return to school (PA) (PA Wire)
Concern over spike in asthma attacks among children as they return to school (PA) (PA Wire)

Parents of children with asthma are being urged to take action as the number of life-threatening asthma attacks is predicted to soar in the coming weeks.

One mother has described how she “dreads” her asthmatic son returning to school after the summer holidays as he has been admitted to hospital almost every year in September.

Asthma and Lung UK said that year-on-year there are spikes in hospital admissions for asthma attacks in September after children return to school.

In 2018 – the latest data available – 1,795 children were admitted to hospitals in England with asthma in September, a sharp rise from the 435 admitted in August.

I dread his return to school as I know he’ll have an asthma attack

Rebecca Grandison

The pattern has also been observed in previous years. It has been attributed to a number of factors including children being exposed to more triggers – such as cold and flu viruses – when they return to school.

Another factor could be that youngsters fall out of their usual routine of taking their preventer inhaler during the summer break.

Parents are being urged to make sure their children are taking their medicine as prescribed.

They are also being encouraged to ensure that children have their reliever inhaler and spacer with them at school, as well as making sure they have had their yearly asthma review.

Rebecca Grandison, 42, from Cheshire has to take her seven-year-old son Wilfred to hospital almost every year in September as his asthma is triggered by colds and flu, as well as changes in the weather.

“I dread his return to school as I know he’ll have an asthma attack and it’s awful watching him experience one,” she said.

“No mother wants to see her son gasping for breath and no matter how many times it happens it never gets any easier watching someone you love so much struggling to breathe.

“I usually have to rush him to hospital or call for an ambulance if his inhalers don’t help enough which is awful.

Rebecca Grandison said she “dreads” her son Wilf returning to school after the summer holidays (handout/Asthma and Lung UK)
Rebecca Grandison said she “dreads” her son Wilf returning to school after the summer holidays (handout/Asthma and Lung UK)

“We manage Wilf’s asthma well over the summer holidays because I can limit his exposure to things which triggers an asthma attack. But once he goes to school, he is mixing with lots of other children who have coughs and colds, and he is exposed to the cold air when he is playing in the school playground which leaves him wheezing and gasping for breath.

“I want to help raise awareness of the increased risk for children with asthma around September, so parents know how important it is to stay on top of their children’s asthma during the summer holidays and continue giving them the medication they need.”

Emma Rubach, head of health advice at Asthma and Lung UK, said: “Returning to school should be an exciting time for children, and the last thing any parent wants is to see is their child in hospital fighting for their life after an asthma attack.

“But when children do go back after the summer holidays, they can be exposed to more things that can trigger their asthma. Colds and flu viruses and dust mites are some of the biggest culprits.

“Some children may fall out of their usual preventer inhaler routines over the summer break which can leave them much more vulnerable to an asthma attack.

“The best thing parents can do is to prevent their children having an asthma attack is to ensure they take their preventer inhaler – usually brown – every day as prescribed, this helps calm the inflammation in their airways and reduces the risk of an asthma attack.

“We would encourage parents to ensure that their child has their reliever inhaler – usually blue – and spacer at school to use if they have asthma symptoms and ensure their child has a yearly review with their GP or asthma nurse, this should include a check to ensure they are using their inhaler properly, and have a written asthma action plan.

“We would advise everyone who has a child with asthma to get more advice and support from the Asthma and Lung UK website or our Helpline.”