Parents who have children with asthma are today advised by Asthma UK to contact their GP if they have concerns about sending them back to school.
The spread of coronavirus raises a number of areas for parents to consider as children with asthma are classed as among the clinically vulnerable.
Asthma UK estimates that there are about 130,000 children with asthma that are due to return to the classroom in June.
Dr Andy Whittamore, Asthma UK’s clinical lead and a practising GP, said: “Going back to school after a long break is usually an exciting time for children. Understandably, we’ve heard that parents of children with asthma are more concerned this time round.
“The best thing you can do for your child, whether they’re in school or at home, is to make sure their asthma is managed well.
“If you are worried about your child’s asthma, contact their GP, who will be able to advise whether their condition is under control before they return to school.”
Dr Whittamore has answered some of parents’ most asked questions about going back to school.
- My child is shielding, can they return to school?
If your child is shielding, then you should not send them back to school. People who are shielding are classed as “clinically extremely vulnerable” and will have been told to shield by their GP.
If your child is not shielding but someone in your household is, then your child should not return to school unless they are able to maintain a “stringent” social distance from the person that is shielding, according to government advice.
It is worth remembering that parents in England will not be fined if they do not send their children back to school at this time.
- My child is not shielding but has asthma, am I putting them at risk by sending them back to school?
Asthma doesn’t make you more likely to get coronavirus, but unfortunately if people with long-term lung conditions like asthma get coronavirus, it can be more severe. Reassuringly, the number of children with asthma becoming seriously unwell with COVID-19 is low.
If you have concerns about your child’s return to school, contact your GP, who will be able to assess whether their asthma is well-controlled.
Regardless of whether your child is returning to school in June or September, there are things you can do now to prepare them for getting back to the classroom.
Getting into a good routine will prevent your child from having potentially life-threatening asthma attacks. Ensuring they take their preventer medicines regularly, go for asthma reviews and have an up to date asthma action plan will help with keeping their symptoms under control. Getting into a good routine with preventer inhalers is important because the medicine builds up over time, helping to protect the airways.
Your child’s annual asthma review might have been postponed because of COVID-19. If that is the case, then get in touch with your GP surgery to rearrange an appointment over the phone. Book an urgent appointment with the GP or asthma nurse if your child is using their reliever inhaler (usually blue) three or more times a week, coughing or wheezing at night, or feeling out of breath.
If your child is going to return to school, find out which member of school staff will be looking after their asthma as this might have changed with some teachers not returning to the classroom. Make sure the designated staff member is aware of your child’s symptoms, has a copy of their asthma action plan and has access to their inhalers.
If the school do not have extra inhalers already,ask your doctor's surgery for an extra reliever inhaler (usually blue) (preferably in its original packaging so the school has the prescription label that comes with it).
Following calls for clarity from Asthma UK, the government has said that school staff members are able to help children with their inhalers in a first aid situation. Emergency inhalers kept on site will be able to be used as long as they are cleaned after use.
- How are schools going to maintain social distancing?
Your child’s return to school is likely to be very different from when they left in March. Classes will have no more than 15 pupils and there will be a bigger emphasis on hand washing.
Social distancing measures will vary from school to school, depending on what the teachers decide to adopt. For example, some schools are looking at staggering start and finish times to minimise contact between different groups of children and staff. This would also help to prevent travel to school during peak times.
Keep an eye out for communication from your child’s school about what their plans are for reopening and get in contact if you have further questions.
- Should my child be wearing a face mask in school?
The government has said that children and teachers do not need to wear face coverings at school.
Government advice in England suggests that people should wear non-surgical face coverings when it’s not possible to socially distance, for example while using public transport on the way to and from school.
For some people with asthma, wearing a face covering might not be easy. It could make it feel harder to breathe. The government has advised that people with respiratory conditions don’t need to wear face coverings, so if you are finding it hard, then don’t wear one.
Notes to Editors
For interview requests, please call 0207 786 4949 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org