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Back to school and asthma attacks - the unseen danger

Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ today, Wednesday 23 January 2019, issues a warning to asthma sufferers about the increased risk of severe asthma flare-ups when heading back to school.

Children are at a much higher risk of having a severe asthma attack when starting back at school. Changes in a child's environment, increased stress and a lack of medication routine over the summer holidays are all contributory factors putting children at greater risk at this time of year.

Asthma is a common illness in New Zealand, affecting one in seven children and one in eight adults. Overall 700,000 New Zealanders suffer from a respiratory disease. 77 people die from asthma each year, that's just over one person per week. One third of respiratory related hospital admissions are children. It's currently estimated 586,000 school days are lost each year due to asthma-related symptoms in children.

Parents and teachers are urged to get prepared ahead of the new school year. Parents should ensure that their child has their inhalers at school, and make sure that their teachers are aware. Those with a Child Asthma Action Plan should share it with their school.

Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ launched the Teachers' Asthma Toolkit in 2018. This toolkit, alongside the Managing your Child's Asthma resource, are two free online resources for parents, carers or teachers who want to know more about asthma in children. They are easy to use and navigate visit for more details.

Head of Education and Research for the Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ, Teresa Demetriou, comments: "History has shown us that there is a spike in hospital admissions at the start of the school year when children are re-introduced to a different environment. It's important to make sure that all parents and teachers are aware of this and work to ensure children's safety. Our Learn About Lungs interactive website is the perfect tool for everyone."

Teresa Demetriou goes onto say: "For most children going back to school is an exciting time, but unfortunately for many this unseen danger can lead to severe reactions putting children at risk. It is highly important for at risk children to have an up to date Child Asthma Action plan in place, which is developed alongside a health professional."

Asthma UK said figures showed an increase of 70 per cent in hospital admissions when children returned to school in August 2018 after the summer holidays in the UK. [Ref 1]

The Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ suggests there are many ways families can get prepared. Below are some top tips to help children stay healthy when returning to the classroom:

• Put together an Asthma Action Plan with a health professional before school starts. This will help you to become more in control.

• Get more informed about asthma triggers. This will help to manage asthma symptoms and ensure a smooth transition back to the classroom.

• Ensure children have enough medication on hand and that teachers are informed.

• Talk to your child's teacher. Make sure your child will tell a teacher if they are feeling unwell and ensure the school has all the correct emergency contact details.

• Reduce exposure to germs. Wash hands with soap and teach kids 'germ etiquette'.

You can download for free the 'My Asthma' app for easier asthma management at home and on the go.

For more information visit

To download one of our asthma emergency posters visit

Download School Asthma First Aid Poster Jan 2018 Digital (157.77KB)

For more information about asthma and respiratory diseases visit

The Sensitive Choice programme is managed by the Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ in New Zealand and has helped people to reduce their allergy symptoms for many years. If you are one of thousands of New Zealanders with asthma and allergy symptoms, visit the Sensitive Choice website for products and services that may be better choice for you and your family.

[Ref 1] Asthma UK analysis of bespoke data supplied by ISD Scotland 2018. The 70 per cent increase represents an increase of emergency admissions for asthma from 65 in July to 117 in August (ages 5-19) when most children went back to school following the UK summer holidays.


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