“Asthma attacks are particularly common for children when going back to school, especially following the long summer holiday,” says Teresa Demetriou from the Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ.

Studies have shown that viral infections are likely to be the main cause in the spike of asthma hospitalisations. Other causes include less strict asthma management over the holidays, a change in environment with greater exposure to allergens, and a change in emotions such as stress and anxiety.

Parents are urged to take preventative measures. “The best thing to do is be as prepared as possible,” says Teresa Demetriou of the Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ.

“Asthma Action Plans need to be provided to schools along with updated emergency contact details. Children need to be taking their preventer medication as prescribed if they have one, and bring their reliever inhaler to school.”

“Make sure your child knows what their triggers are so they can do their best to avoid them. It’s important to reduce exposure to germs, which includes washing hands with soap as needed. We also highly recommend all families with asthma to get their flu vaccination in March,” says Demetriou. 

Jackie Hartley, mother of 10-year-old Mayim who has chronic lung disease says, “Having a support network is really important. Mayim's family, friends and teachers know what he’s like and keep an eye on him. They know what symptoms to look out for and when to get help.”

In 2013, there were 3730 hospitalisations for children in New Zealand under the age of 15 years old.

A free, printable back-to-school checklist is also available to download. 

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