DEADLY asthma attacks could spike to "unprecedented levels" when kids go back to school after the coronavirus lockdown, experts warn.
Campaigners say that the disruption to basic asthma care as a knock-on result of the Covid-19 pandemic could leave thousands of children at risk.
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The UK's leading respiratory charity, Asthma UK, estimates that up to 133,800 children in England have missed out on their annual review.
During the routine checks, a child’s inhaler technique is checked and they are provided with an up to date asthma action plan.
Experts say they are essential in keeping children with asthma well and out of hospital.
But reviews suspended for three months to free up capacity at GP surgeries in response to the pandemic.
The charity is now calling on parents to contact their doctor to reschedule their child's asthma review to reduce the risk of a potentially life-threatening asthma attack.
It comes ahead of September when the number of children with asthma admitted to hospital surges.
Figures show that the number of appointments related to "back to school asthma" triples in England in September.
The childhood asthma warning signs to know
If your child is at risk of an asthma attack you will notice a few signs in the time before it strikes. These include:
- Puffing on their reliever inhaler three or more times per 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
- They might say their tummy or chest hurts
If your child has any of these symptoms you should take them to see a GP straight away.
It's also a good idea to get an asthma action plan written up, so your doctor can manage the condition with the right medications and treatment plans.
Make sure the teacher knows your child has asthma and what to do in the situation they suffer an asthma attack.
The spike is among children aged between one and 14, with boys twice as likely as girls to visit their GP with worsening symptoms.
Typically, experts put it down to children returning to the classroom where they are exposed to new viruses, which can all be triggers for asthma.
But with schools forced to implement new Covid-safe measures, it's unclear what impact this may have on asthmatic children this term.
Another reason admissions tend to spike is down to falling out of routine with preventer medicine over the long summer break.
Preventer medicine builds up over time and helps calm the underlying inflammation in a child’s lungs, so if they do catch a common virus, their asthma is less likely to be triggered.
Forgetting to take it could leave children's airways more sensitive to triggers when they go back to school.
An Asthma UK survey found that 71 per cent of children with asthma had not returned to the classroom since schools were closed during lockdown.
It means there has been potentially an even longer disruption to their routine asthma care.
The charity is urging parents of children with asthma to act now to get into a good routine with their preventer medication before they return.
Emma Rubach, head of health advice at Asthma UK, said: “Unless parents act now, asthma attacks could rise to unprecedented levels when children go back to school.
“Children have already missed a lot of school because of the pandemic so it’s vital that parents ensure they are prepared for their return to the classroom by making sure they take their preventer medicine every day.
"If their routine has slipped, it’s time to urgently get back to it – to avoid a hospital admission when term starts.
“The NHS is open for business and if your child’s annual asthma review has been cancelled then it’s important that you contact your GP surgery to reschedule it.”
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