Asthma attacks skyrocket for Scottish children when they go back to school - new figures show

70% increase in hospital admissions for asthma attacks after school holidays

The number of children in Scotland hospitalised for asthma attacks surges when they return to school after the summer holidays, according to new analysis by Asthma UK.  

Most recent figures show a 70% increase in hospital admissions in August, when children return to school, compared to the previous month.[1]  Asthma UK is now urging parents of children with asthma in Scotland to be on high alert to spot the warning signs before an asthma attack strikes.

Children are at a much greater risk of having a potentially fatal asthma attack when they go back to school. This may be because the lack of routine over the summer holidays means parents might not always remember to give their child their preventer medicine. This is vital because the medicine builds up over time, helping to protect the airways. Forgetting to take preventer medicine leaves them exposed to having asthma attacks triggered by cold and flu viruses.

71,000 children in Scotland have asthma[2], a condition which can leave people struggling to breathe and claimed the lives of over 100 Scots in 2017.[3]

Asthma UK is calling on parents of children with asthma to follow its advice on how to spot an approaching asthma attack and understand what to do to avoid it.

Natalie Homer’s son Isaac was hospitalised after picking up a cold which triggered a major asthma attack. She said: “We weren’t consistent with giving Isaac his preventer inhaler. This came back to bite us when Isaac was rushed to hospital fighting for his life.

“I had no idea that coughing at night and a tummy ache could be a sign that a major asthma attack was brewing. It was so frightening to see his condition deteriorate so quickly, to the point where he couldn’t walk.

“With help from Asthma UK, I’m now clued up on the warning signs of an asthma attack and know what to do if Isaac’s symptoms worsen. I want to urge other parents to get support from the charity, especially at this time of the year when children are at an increased risk of an asthma attack. Don’t risk it - recognising the signs and taking action quickly could save your child’s life.”

Sonia Munde, Head of Services at Asthma UK says: “Going back to school should be an exciting time for children, but many end up in hospital fighting for life after an asthma attack. This is extremely distressing for a child and their parent. It could be avoided if parents know how to spot their child’s asthma is getting worse and know what to do if their child is having an asthma attack.  

“Parents should not feel afraid to book an urgent appointment with the GP or asthma nurse if their child is using their reliever inhaler (usually blue) three or more times a week, coughing or wheezing at night or feeling out of breath and struggling to keep up with their friends. They can find information and support at www.asthma.org.uk/back-to-school

Every 2.5 minutes someone has a potentially life-threatening asthma attack in Scotland and these are the warning signs that a child’s asthma symptoms are getting worse:

  • Puffing on their reliever inhaler (usually blue) three or more times a week. 
  • Coughing and/or wheezing at night or in the early mornings.
  • Breathlessness – if they’re pausing for breath when talking or struggling to keep up with friends, that’s a sign.  
  • They might say their tummy or chest hurts. 

Asthma UK is advising parents to familiarise themselves - and anyone who looks after their child - with what to do if their child symptoms are getting worse:

  • Give two to four puffs of their reliever inhaler, through a spacer. Space the puffs out so there are 30-60 seconds between them. If their symptoms don’t get better or if their reliever inhaler isn’t lasting four hours, follow our asthma attack advice below.
  • Make a same-day appointment with your child's GP.
  • If the surgery is closed, call 111 for advice.
  • If you have any questions, call our asthma nurses for advice on 0300 222 5800 (Mon – Fri; 9am – 5pm). You can also visit our child asthma advice

 

Asthma attack advice

 If a child's symptoms get worse quickly, call 999: 

  1. While you wait for the ambulance, help them sit up and give a puff of their reliever inhaler every 30-60 seconds - you can give them up to 10 puffs.
  2. You can repeat step 1 every 15 minutes while you are waiting for the ambulance.   

For further information on how to protect your child when they’re back in school this August, visit https://www.asthma.org.uk/back-to-school or call the Asthma UK Helpline on 0300 222 5800 (Mon – Fri; 9am – 5pm) to speak to an asthma nurse. Parents can also speak to our asthma nurses by calling 0300 222 5800 or by messaging 07378 606 728 on WhatsApp.

Ends

Notes to editors

For more information, please contact the Emma Warren on ewarren@asthma.org.uk, 020 7786 4982 (during office hours) or 07951 721393 (outside of office hours).

 Journalists can access the latest figures and trends in asthma outcomes across the UK, here. Information on asthma facts and statistics can also be found on our website.

 About Asthma UK

  • In the UK, 5.4 million people are currently receiving treatment for asthma: 1.1 million children (1 in 11) and 4.3 million adults (1 in 12).
  • Every day, the lives of three families are devastated by the death of a loved one to an asthma attack, and tragically two thirds of these deaths are preventable.
  • Asthma UK’s mission is to stop asthma attacks and cure asthma. We do this by funding world leading research, campaigning for improved care and supporting people to reduce their risk of a potentially life-threatening asthma attack.
  • For more information about asthma please visit www.asthma.org.uk

 

 

 

 



[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).

[2] Estimate from Health surveys. (Health survey for England, 2001; Scottish Health survey, 2003; Welsh Health survey, 2005/06; Northern Ireland Health and Wellbeing survey, 2005/06. Data accessed via UK Data Service)

[3] National Records of Scotland, 2018. Vital Events Reference Tables 2017. Three of the deaths were children. Accessed at https://www.nrscotland.gov.uk/statistics-and-data/statistics/statistics-by-theme/vital-events/general-publications/vital-events-reference-tables/2017/section-6-death-causes.