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The National Asthma Council Australia is calling on nurses to help young patients be well prepared for the expected back-to-school asthma spike.

The typical sharp rise in children being admitted to hospital with asthma flair ups in February, often caused by change of environment or allergens, shared viruses from new classmates, and less strict asthma management over the holidays, may be worse this year due to smoke and poor hazardous quality in areas still affected by fires, said Asthma Council CEO Siobhan Brophy.

“Nurses can help get children asthma-ready for school by asking parents about their child’s asthma control experience over summer, whether they have an up-to-date asthma plan and medications, and encouraging them to have a full asthma check-up for their child,” said Ms Brophy.

The Asthma Council stated one in nine children in Australia have asthma, however according to the latest statistics from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2017-18) , one third of Australian children with asthma aged up to 14 years still do not have a written asthma action plan.

According to Ms Brophy the beginning of the school year is an opportune time to start the conversation with patients.

“Going back to school should be an exciting time for kids. Having a written plan shared with school staff and taking preventative measures before and during the first few weeks of school can go a long way to keeping children with asthma out of hospital.

“I’d also urge nurses to check the latest paediatric management recommendations in the Australian Asthma Handbook, as these were updated in early 2019 as part of our last major review,” said Ms Brophy.

The Asthma Council has the following tips to help prepare children with asthma for the new school year:

  • When children with asthma present for any reason, ask about their asthma and whether they are ready for asthma when at school.
  • Make sure each child has an up-to-date written asthma action plan and the child and/or parents understand how to follow it.
  • Remind parents to get their child back into their asthma routine before the school year starts, including taking preventer medications every day, if prescribed.
  • Encourage them to have a full asthma check-up before the school year starts, or at least before activities like sports or other physical activities start, to ensure all is as well as it can be.
  • Take the opportunity to check that the child and/or parents are using inhalers correctly.

Nurses can refer patients wanting more information to the Asthma Council’s Sensitive Choice program, which has a series of factsheets on back-to school and other issues for children.