Avoid a back to school asthma attack

More children are rushed to hospital with their asthma in September than at any other time of the year. Here’s what to do if your child’s asthma symptoms are getting worse.

Why are children more at risk of asthma attacks in September?

Researchers think it's because: 

  • Lots of children come down with colds when they go back to school – one of the biggest triggers for people with asthma
  • If your child has a dust mite allergy, being inside more as the weather changes could make their asthma flare up
  • An allergy to the mould spores around at this time of year could also set off asthma symptoms
  • Preventer inhaler routines get easily disrupted over the summer holidays, and so children's airways can be more sensitive to triggers when they go back to school. 

How you can cut your child’s asthma attack risk this year 

“Unfortunately, it can be tough to avoid triggers like catching a back to school cold,” says Asthma UK’s in-house GP Dr Andy Whittamore. “That’s why it’s so important to make sure your child is taking their preventer inhaler (usually brown) every day as prescribed. This will help calm the underlying inflammation in their airways and cut their chances of a cold, or other trigger, causing an asthma attack. 

You should also make sure you have their reliever inhaler, usually blue, somewhere handy, and be alert to the signs that their symptoms are getting worse.”   

4 signs your child’s asthma symptoms are getting worse

  1. Needing to take their reliever inhaler (usually blue) three or more times a week
  2. Coughing and/or wheezing, or saying their chest hurts
  3. Breathlessness – if they’re pausing for breath when talking or struggling to keep up with friends, that’s a sign
  4. Waking up at night because of their asthma symptoms 

Some children might say their tummy hurts as well - get to know your child’s individual asthma signs. 

One or more of these signs mean that your child is at risk of an asthma attack and you need to take urgent action:

What to do if your child’s symptoms are getting worse  

  1. When they get symptoms, give them two to four puffs of their reliever inhaler, through a spacer. Space the puffs out so there are 30-60 seconds between them. Their symptoms should ease. If they don’t, or their reliever inhaler isn’t lasting for four hours, call 999 and follow our asthma attacks advice for children.
  2. Make a same-day appointment with your child’s GP. If the surgery is closed, call 111 for advice.

Help your child stay well through the autumn term and beyond

You can play an active role in building up your child’s protection against asthma attacks this September and through the rest of the year. Here are the main ways you can help:

  • Make sure your child is taking their preventer medicine every day, as prescribed. This will help calm the inflammation in their airways and reduce the risk of an asthma attack
  • Visit your child’s GP to make sure your child’s written asthma action plan is up to date. They will also check your child’s asthma and might adjust their prescription to make sure your child is getting the most from their medicine
  • As your doctor's surgery for an extra reliever inhaler (usually blue), and give it to your child's school (preferably in its original packaging so the school has the prescription label that comes with it)
  • Download an Asthma School Card with your GP or asthma nurse and give it to the school, so they know what to do if your child gets breathless or starts coughing and wheezing.

With the right asthma care, your child will be able to cope with back to school coughs and colds, sleep easily and stay healthy – so you don’t have to worry.

Worried? Speak to an Asthma UK asthma nurse 

Our helpline is open Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm.