Avoid a back to school asthma attack

As a parent, you may be worried about sending your child back to school after a long time being at home.

 

Asthma UK knows that going back to school in September can trigger more asthma attacks. We advise parents to use this page as a guide for returning to school after the long break caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

On this page

Why are children more at risk of asthma attacks when going back to school?

How you can cut your child’s asthma attack risk

4 signs your child’s asthma symptoms are getting worse

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

Help your child stay well

Worried? Speak to an Asthma UK asthma nurse

Why are children more at risk of asthma attacks when going back to school?

There are a few possible reasons why children are at higher risk of asthma attacks after returning to school:   

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

Some of these reasons may also apply after the long break from school due to the coronavirus lockdown.

It isn’t yet clear whether going back to school after the lockdown will affect children’s asthma. However, there are things you can do to prepare and keep their asthma attack risk down.

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.

Your child’s annual asthma review - where you can discuss how they should be using their preventer inhaler - might have been postponed because of COVID-19. Talk to your GP surgery to rearrange an appointment over the phone if you have questions about your child’s asthma.”  

4 signs your child’s asthma symptoms are getting worse

  1. Needing to take their reliever inhaler 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 

You can play an active role in building up your child’s protection against asthma attacks. 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.

Last updated May 2020

Next review due October 2020