As the new school year approaches, the Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ is advising parents and educators to be prepared for return to school asthma flare ups.

“Return to school asthma flare ups are well-documented both in New Zealand and overseas. Research shows that asthma hospitalisations for New Zealand children peak in the early weeks of each term, with the greatest peak occurring in weeks three and four of term one. Surprisingly, the rate of hospitalisations at this time of year is greater than during winter months for children under 14 years,” explains Respiratory Paediatrician Dr David McNamara, a member of the Foundation’s Scientific Advisory Board.

International studies identify several possible factors for this increased risk, including exposure to different allergens and new viruses in the school environment, as well as changes in emotions like stress and anxiety which can be triggers for asthma.

Dr McNamara is encouraging parents to take action now to reduce the risk of return to school asthma. “Now is the time to check that you have the inhalers you need, spacers and an up-to-date Asthma Action Plan. Get your child into the habit of regularly using their preventer and make sure they take their reliever inhaler with them to school,” he says.

Action plans are essential self-management documents outlining how to recognise and respond to worsening symptoms of asthma. The Foundation recommends that all children with asthma have a plan, and this is shared with their child’s school and class teacher.

The Foundation also encourages all schools to have an Asthma Emergency Kit and be informed on how to respond to asthma emergencies. “With one in eight Kiwi kids living with asthma, it is vital that educators know what to do in an asthma emergency.” says Foundation Chief Executive Letitia Harding.

Schools are able to purchase Asthma Emergency Kits from the Foundation’s resource store. Posters and booklets on how to respond to asthma emergencies can be downloaded for free from the Foundation’s website. Thanks to funding received from the NH Taylor Charitable Trust, the Foundation will be supplying 100 Asthma Emergency Kits to low decile schools at the start of the 2023 school year.

“We are thrilled to be able to provide our kits free of charge to these schools, and we hope to do more of this in the future,” Ms Harding says. The Foundation has a number of additional free resources available to parents and educators including an online Parent/Educator toolkit, a digital asthma classroom in te reo Māori and English, and a Back-to-School checklist for families.


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