Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ (ARFNZ) is urging parents, caregivers and schools to be prepared for the annual rise in asthma hospitalisations when children return to school after the holidays.
An increase in asthma hospitalisations when school returns has been well-documented in overseas studies, with hospitalisations lower during school holidays. Hospitalisations tend to peak within 2-4 weeks of the first day of school each Term, with the largest increase occurring in Term 1 after the long summer holidays.
Dr Lucy Telfar Barnard, a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Otago and author of ARFNZ’s ‘Impact of Respiratory Disease in NZ’ report says "Preliminary work with New Zealand data shows the same trends as overseas, with increased hospitalisations in the ‘back-to-school’ period. Further analysis will be needed to measure this properly - something we have underway."
Each year there are more than 7,000 asthma hospital admissions in New Zealand with more than half of those for children under 15-years-old.
Studies have shown that a variety of factors are associated with the increase, including a change of environment and exposure to different allergens, changes in emotions such as stress or anxiety, and exposure to more viruses from being around more people.
Parents and caregivers of asthmatic children are urged to focus on prevention.
"There are three key things that parents can do" says Joanna Turner, Research and Education Manager, ARFNZ:
- Talk with your child’s teacher and school - ensure you child has an Asthma Action Plan and that this is shared with their school, along with updated emergency details.
- Take your medication - children need to be taking their preventer medication as prescribed and bringing their reliever inhaler to school - check that this is not empty or out of date.
- Understand your triggers - make sure your child knows what their triggers are so they can do their best to avoid them.
"Getting a flu vaccine and good hand hygiene is also important to prevent the spread of germs" says Joanna.
A free, printable back-to-school checklist is also available to download from the Foundation’s website, visit: www.asthmafoundation.org.nz/resources/school-asthma-checklist
The Foundation also runs an asthma in schools education programme presented as an engaging musical show named ‘Sailor the Pufferfish’. Shows are presented in either English or Te Reo Māori and educate both teachers and students about what to do in an emergency. If your school is interested in hosting a show, please contact email@example.com