CHILDREN are more likely to need to see a doctor for asthma attacks at the start of the school year, new research suggests.
Figures show that the number of appointments related to “back to school asthma” triples in England in September.
1 Asthma cases in children rise when kids go back to school in September, new figures showCredit: Getty – Contributor
The spike is among children aged between one and 14, with boys twice as likely as girls to visit their GP with worsening symptoms.
Researchers suggest exposure to new viruses in the classroom and a relaxed use of inhalers over the summer holidays could be to blame.
A report published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health by Public Health England analysed the number of GP visits for asthma between 2012 and 2016.
They found that the rate fell during school holidays, but spiked at the beginning of the autumn term in September.
The increase was also found in Scotland and Wales.
Experts found the “back to school asthma” accounts for up to a quarter of serious bouts of the condition in many northern hemisphere countries.
The childhood asthma warning signs you need to know…If your child is at risk of an asthma attack you will notice a few signs in the time before it strikes. These include:
Puffing on their reliever inhaler three or more times per week
Coughing and/or wheezing at night or in the early mornings
Breathlessness – if they’re pausing for breath when talking or struggling to keep up with friends
They might say their tummy or chest hurts
If your child has any of these symptoms you should take them to see a GP straight away.
It’s also a good idea to get an asthma action plan written up, so your doctor can manage the condition with the right medications and treatment plans.
Make sure the teacher knows your child has asthma and what to do in the situation they suffer an asthma attack.
In comparison to the summer holidays, GP appointments linked with asthma were two to three times higher in the weeks after school began.
Visits to A&E for worsening symptoms also peaked at the start of the school year.
The highest rate of asthma cases was among boys aged between five and 14
Researchers said seasonal peak in cases could be caused by a number of reasons, including changes in the weather, air pollution and the stress of starting a new school year.
They said seasonal increases in circulating viruses, particularly the common cold, which is implicated in worsening childhood asthma.
Writing in the report, the team said: “The underlying cause of ‘back to school’ asthma is complex and in addition to the established contribution of respiratory infections, environmental determinants may be involved.
“These results support the need for further preventable work to reduce the impact of back to school asthma in children.”
They also suggested the role of fungal spores could be an area for future research to investigate.
‘Ticking time bomb’
Responding to the study, Dr Andy Whittamore, clinical lead for Asthma UK and a practising GP, said:
“While boys are more likely to get asthma than girls, it is still shocking that boys with the condition are twice as likely to need GP treatment than girls.
“In fact, all children with asthma are at risk during the summer holidays when their asthma can turn into a ticking time bomb.
“Many fall out of the routine of taking their daily asthma medication during the summer and this, combined with an abundance of cold and flu in the autumn which are known asthma triggers, puts them at a higher risk of having a life-threatening asthma attack when they go back to school.”
He said parents should follow simple tips to keep their kids safe this summer.
Dr Whittamore added: “Make sure you give your child their preventer inhaler – usually brown – every day as prescribed over the summer holidays as this helps to calm the inflammation in their airways and prevents them having an asthma attack if they come into contact with one of their triggers.
“Share your child’s written asthma action plan with anyone looking after your child over the summer.
“If your 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 book an urgent appointment with their GP.”
How to make sure you’re using your asthma inhaler correctly
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