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College issues warning over new term 'spike' in asthma risk

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Children going back to school are at higher risk of asthma attacks, the Royal College of Nursing has warned, ahead of the start of the new term.

It urged parents and carers of children with asthma to remind them to use their inhaler before the school term starts again to help prevent the “September Spike” in emergency asthma admissions.

The college also warned of falling numbers of school nurses that it highlighted were vital to prevent children missing school due to long-term conditions.

Official NHS figures for September each year show the number of children with asthma visiting accident and emergency trebles compared to the school holidays.

To tackle the trend, the RCN said it was advising parents and carers to ensure their child is taking their preventer medication regularly two weeks before starting school.

Nurses have also advised parents to book their child’s annual asthma review before the school term starts, as well as a flu vaccine appointment for children and young people with asthma.

“School nurses help children with long-term health conditions to manage their own condition”

Fiona Smith

Patients must also have a personalised asthma action plan, noted the RCN, which should include information on the child’s asthma triggers and how to spot when their asthma was getting worse.

In addition, the college encouraged parents to discuss the action plan with their child’s teacher, school nurse or their school’s designated asthma lead.

Parents must also make sure their child’s reliever inhaler, spacer and care plan is packed into their school bag, noted the college, which is holding its annual school nursing conference today in London.

It said a lapse in routine over the summer holidays, the change in weather and the exposure to new coughs and colds when returning to school, left children more at risk of an asthma attack.

Changes to sleeping habits and holidays can also have an impact on the rise of asthma attacks as for children with asthma, which may result in not using their preventer inhaler, it noted.

Between August and September 2015, emergency asthma admissions in England, Scotland and Wales for children aged 0-14 tripled, increasing from 1089 to 3203.

In September 2014, 2013 and 2012 admissions also increased threefold compared to the previous month.

Meanwhile, Fiona Smith, RCN professional lead for children and young people, issued a warning over the impact of falling school nurse numbers and conditions such as asthma.

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Fiona Smith

She said: “School nurses help children with long-term health conditions to manage their own condition and have good attendance at school.

“They look after children and young people’s physical and mental health and can train teachers to recognise the warning signs for an asthma attack,” she said.

“But falling numbers of school nurses and decreased resources are affecting school nurses’ ability to provide this critical service,” Ms Smith warned.

She added: “As public health funding continues to dwindle, the government must provide school nurses with the investment they need.”

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Readers' comments (1)

  • It might help if colleges and hospitals made efforts to stop students and service users spraying themselves and the toilets with aerosol deodorant.

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