[Guest blog] Tips for parents on preventing back to school asthma attacks

Clinical Lead and GP at Asthma UK
26 September 2018

It’s normal to worry about your child as they go back to school. But if your child has asthma, it’s even more important to be aware of the signs of an asthma attack and know how to act in September as the Autumn term starts. This is because new analysis from Asthma UK shows that the number of children in the UK hospitalised for asthma attacks doubles when they return to school after the summer holidays. Asthma UK’s Clinical Lead and GP Dr Andy Whittamore explains.

Why do asthma attacks in children rise in September?

It’s thought that this may be down to a lack of routine over the summer holidays, which causes children to fall out of the habit of taking their preventer medicine (most commonly a brown inhaler) every day.

This is vital because the medicine builds up over time, helping to protect their airways. If your child forgets to take their preventer medicine, it leaves them exposed to having asthma attacks triggered by cold and flu viruses.

What symptoms should you look out for?

There are a number of warning signs that your child’s asthma symptoms are getting worse that you can look out for. For example:

  • puffing on their reliever inhaler (usually blue) three or more times a week
  • coughing and/or wheezing at nightor in the early mornings
  • breathlessness – for example if they’re pausing for breath when talking
  • they might say their tummy or chest hurts

What to do if your child’s asthma symptoms worsen

If you’re a parent or someone who looks after a child with asthma, it’s important to familiarise yourself with what to do if your child’s symptoms are getting worse. Follow the steps below.

  • Give them two to four puffs of their reliever inhaler, through a spacer. Space the puffs out so there are 30–60 seconds between them. If their symptoms don’t get better or if their symptoms return within four hours, follow our asthma attack advice below as they may be having an attack.
  • Make a same-day appointment with your child's GP.
  • If the surgery is closed, call 111 for advice.
  • If you have any questions, you can call the Asthma nurses for advice on 0300 222 5800 (Mon–Fri; 9am–5pm). You can also read more about child asthma advice

Asthma attack advice

If your child's symptoms get worse quickly, call 999:

  1. While you wait for the ambulance, help them sit up and give them a puff of their reliever inhaler every 30–60 seconds – you can give them up to 10 puffs.
  2. You can repeat this every 15 minutes while you’re waiting for the ambulance.

How to help your child stay well through September and beyond

You can't control whether your child gets a cold, or if the changing weather affects their asthma, but there's actions you can take to build up your child's protection against asthma attacks.

  1. Make an appointment with your GP to make sure your child’s written asthma action plan is up to date.
  2. Download the Asthma UK School Card, fill it out with your GP and give it to the school.
  3. Visit your child’s GP so they can check your child’s asthma and adjust their prescription to make sure they’re getting the most from their medicine.
  4. Get a fresh, full reliever inhaler (usually blue) and give it to your child’s school.
  5. Speak to one of our asthma nurses by calling the Asthma UK’s Helpline on 0300 222 5800 (Mon–Fri; 9am–5pm). They can give you advice on things like how to manage your child’s asthma and how to talk to school about their asthma.
  6. Visit the Asthma UK online community to get support from other parents whose children have asthma.

Asthma UK received a grant from the Bupa UK Foundation. The Bupa UK Foundation funds practical projects that will make a direct impact on people's health and wellbeing. Launched in 2015, to date it has awarded over £1.4 million in grants to more than 50 projects across the UK to improve people’s mental health, support carers and empower young adults living with ongoing health challenges to live life to the full.

Asthma UK’s mission is to stop asthma attacks and cure asthma. It does this by funding world leading research, campaigning for improved care and supporting people with asthma through its nurse-staffed helpline and expert advice on its website. For further information on how to protect your child when they’re back in school this September, visit:

Dr Andy Whittamore
Clinical Lead and GP at Asthma UK

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