Parents and teachers should prepare for a spike in asthma attacks leading to increased hospitalisations during the early weeks of Term 1.

The Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ is encouraging everyone to be aware of the symptoms of an attack and how to respond. Symptoms of an asthma attack are a worsening cough, persistent wheeze, being short of breath and/or feeling tight in the chest.

Chief Executive Ms Letitia Harding says the back-to-school period is always a vulnerable time for the one in eight Kiwi children living with asthma.

"The ‘back-to-school effect’ is greater than the ‘winter effect’ when it comes to children’s respiratory disease with hospitalisations from asthma attacks at their highest during weeks 3 and 4 of Term 1."


International studies have shown that a variety of factors are associated with the increase, including a change of environment and exposure to different allergens, changes in emotions such as stress or anxiety, and exposure to more viruses from being around more people, Ms Harding says.

To keep children safe through the return-to-school period, parents and caregivers should ensure that their child has an Asthma Action Plan, which is shared with their school and their teacher, Ms Harding says.

"Make sure your child is taking their preventer medication as prescribed and bringing their reliever inhaler to school, and check that it’s not empty or out of date."

Asthma is a common illness in New Zealand, affecting one in eight children and one in eight adults. About 98 people die from asthma each year - that’s nearly two people per week.

In addition, one third of all respiratory-related hospital admissions are children and it is estimated that more than 350,000 school days are lost each year due to asthma-related symptoms in children.

For most children going back to school is an exciting time, Ms Harding says.

"But unfortunately, for many, this period can lead to severe reactions - putting children at risk.

"That’s why investing in educating children about asthma is a huge focus for us," she says.

The Foundation also provides numerous Sailor the Pufferfish live musical shows at schools throughout the year to help children and teachers learn about asthma triggers and what to do in an emergency. These lessons can also be accessed digitally through our website.

Asthma Action Plans can be downloaded for free on the Foundation’s website.


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