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Experts warn of September surge in asthma

GPs urged to promote good self-management of asthma

Adrian O'Dowd

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Experts are seeking GPs and nurses’ help to avoid an expected sharp rise in the number of children’s hospital admissions for asthma attacks in September.

The charity Asthma UK is today launching a Teach Asthma a Lesson Next Term! campaign targeting healthcare professionals and parents, which is designed to encourage much better self-management of the condition over the summer.

New data from the charity suggested an expected spike in children’s hospital admissions because children tend to forget to take inhalers over the summer.

Around 1.1 million children in the UK have asthma and every year, more than 25,000 are hospitalised because of their asthma, but the charity estimates three quarters of asthma hospital admissions could be avoided with the right care and management.

Calling it a potential “asthma attack epidemic”, Asthma UK said in England, more children are rushed to hospital with an asthma attack in mid-September than any other week during the year.

Over 4.6 times as many children in England were hospitalised because of their asthma in the third week of September 2011, compared with just six weeks previously when hospital admissions were at their lowest.

The September spike in hospital admissions happened year after year in the UK and in many other countries, usually two to three weeks into the autumn term, they said, and children aged six to seven years old were most seriously affected.

Healthcare professionals were therefore being urged to act now to prevent the spike from happening.

GPs and nurses could help prevent back-to-school asthma attacks by promoting good self-management to patients over the summer, said the charity.

Studies had suggested that children who have been forgetting to take their preventer inhaler as prescribed over the break would be at a higher risk of having a serious asthma attack when they were exposed to common classroom asthma triggers in September, such as colds, flu and stress.

Asthma UK reminded healthcare professionals of its free child-friendly My Asthma packs that were available for patients throughout July and August. These are an interactive self-management resource for 6 to 12 year olds.

Dr Samantha Walker, deputy chief executive of Asthma UK, said: “Normal routines go out of the window during the summer break, which can effectively create a time-bomb for children with asthma if they’re forgetting to take their preventer inhalers.

“Healthcare professionals have a crucial role to play in helping their patients to get their asthma under control over the school holidays, so they’ll be less vulnerable to asthma attacks come term-time.”

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