Judi Wicking Asthma 'Epidemic' Interview

Judi Wicking Asthma 'Epidemic' Interview

Judi Wicking Asthma -Epidemic' Interview

Parents and teachers are being warned to prepare for a surge in asthma emergencies when children return to classrooms for the start of the 2014 school year.

The National Asthma Council Australia says that the 1 in 10 school children with asthma face a significant increase in the risk of asthma attacks and hospitalisation during the first few weeks of the school term.

'The -February Epidemic' is well documented both here and overseas, with a big asthma spike in children immediately after school goes back," National Asthma Council Australia Chief Executive Officer Kristine Whorlow said.

'This is caused by increased exposure to cold and flu viruses when children return to classrooms and factors such as stress, a change of environment or allergens and less strict asthma management over the holidays."

Studies in Australia and the UK have shown asthma hospitalisations surge during the first month of the school year, with cases in Australia rising as much as threefold in children aged five to 14 years and doubling in preschoolers. While increased risks have also been recorded at the start of subsequent school terms, the February spike is by far the most significant.

To minimise the impact of this year's back to school asthma spike, the National Asthma Council Australia is urging parents to make sure that their child has an up-to-date written asthma action plan prepared by their doctor.

Parents should also ensure their child:
Gets back into their asthma routine before the school year starts, including taking preventer medications every day if prescribed
Has a reliever puffer and spacer packed in their school bag – check that the puffer isn't empty or out of date
Knows how to use their reliever puffer and spacer by themselves (if old enough) or with help
Feels comfortable asking for help or telling their teacher if they are getting asthma symptoms

Ms Whorlow recommended parents give the school or childcare a copy of their child's asthma action plan and tell staff if their child requires help with taking medication. A copy should also be given to anyone who regularly has the child in their care, such as grandparents or sports coaches.

'It's important that preventer medications are taken, when prescribed, and that both children and carers are familiar with their reliever medication and know how to use it correctly," Ms Whorlow said.

'Taking these preventative measures before and during the first few weeks of school can go a long way to helping keep children with asthma out of hospital."


Interview with Judi Wicking, National Asthma Council, asthma nurse educator

Question: Why should parents and teachers be on high alert for a surge in asthma emergencies when children return for the start of the school year?

Judi Wicking: Statistics tell us that the 1 in 10 school children with asthma face a significant increase in the risk of asthma attacks and hospitalisation during the first few weeks of the school term. The -February Epidemic' is well documented both here and overseas, with a big asthma spike in children immediately after school goes back.


Question: Why is there a significant increase in the risk of asthma attacks and hospitalisation during the first few weeks of the school term?

Judi Wicking: This spike in asthma attacks is caused by increased exposure to cold and flu viruses when children return to classrooms and factors such as stress, a change of environment or allergens and less strict asthma management over the holidays may also have an impact. While increased risks have also been recorded at the start of subsequent school terms, the February spike is by far the most significant.


Question: How can teachers and parents monitor this increased risk?

Judi Wicking: It's important that preventer medications, if prescribed, are taken regularly and also both children and teachers are familiar with their reliever medication and know how to use it correctly. Taking these preventative measures before and during the first few weeks of school can go a long way to helping keep children with asthma out of hospital.

Parents should also ensure their child:
Gets back into their asthma routine before the school year starts, including taking preventer medications every day if prescribed
Has a reliever puffer and spacer packed in their school bag – check that the puffer isn't empty or out of date
Knows how to use their reliever puffer and spacer by themselves (if old enough) or with help
Feels comfortable asking for help or telling their teacher if they are getting asthma symptoms


Question: Should all children with asthma have a written asthma action plan?

Judi Wicking: Anyone with asthma should have a personalised written asthma action plan. Evidence shows that people who have a written action plan have better controlled asthma, fewer asthma symptoms and fewer days off school or work because of asthma. They are better equipped to recognise deterioration of their symptoms and can respond appropriately

It is important for parents of children with asthma to make sure that their child has an up-to-date written asthma action plan prepared by their doctor. Having a written action plan for both school and home use is an important document for the management of asthma flare ups or attacks.


Question: Can you talk us through what should be included in a written asthma action plan and who should have a copy of this plan?

Judi Wicking: An Asthma Action Plan helps the person with asthma, or their carer, recognise worsening asthma symptoms and what action to take.

A written asthma action plan should include the following:
The person's usual asthma and allergy medications
Clear instructions on how and when to change medication
When and how to get medical assistance
Name of who prepared the plan and the date of preparation

Parents and teachers need to be aware of the early warning signs an asthma flare ups and then know what to do. Action plans are an excellent guide for appropriate management.

Parents should give the school a copy of their child's asthma action plan and tell staff if their child requires help with taking medication. A copy should also be given to anyone who regularly has the child in their care, such as grandparents or sports coaches.

The National Asthma Council Australia has Asthma Buddy, a free app asthma action plan for both android and iphones. For more information http://www.nationalasthma.org.au/asthma-tools/asthma-action-plans/asthmabuddy


Question: How often should parent's check that their child's suffer isn't empty or out of date?

Judi Wicking: Checking the puffer regularly is important to ensure it isn't out of date or empty.


Question: What are the emergency signs that teachers, grandparents and other carers should look for in children with asthma?

Judi Wicking: Signs of a deterioration of a child's asthma can vary with each child, it can happen gradually or very quickly. Some of the common early warning signs are struggling to breathe, hearing a wheeze, cough, shortness of breath, 'chest tightness" and younger children may say they 'have a pain in their tummy".

If symptoms get worse very quickly; there is severe shortness of breath, the child can't speak comfortably or lips look blue and there is little or no relief from the reliever inhaler this is an asthma emergency. Dial 000 immediately.


Question: What are the main symptoms of asthma?

Judi Wicking: Common signs are struggling to breathe, hearing a wheeze, cough, shortness of breath, 'chest tightness" may also be described and younger children may say they 'have a pain in their tummy".


Question: How is asthma treated, most commonly?

Judi Wicking: Access to a 'reliever" medication such as Ventolin is essential for the management of asthma symptoms. It is important for parents, carers and teacher to know which medication to use and also how to use it for the treatment of an asthma attack.

Some children may require daily/regular preventer medication to maintain good asthma control. The child's doctor will assess if this is needed.


Question: Can you talk us through the correct steps for the carer, if a child has an asthma attacks?

Judi Wicking: A personalised written asthma action will state how to manage an asthma attack. If there is no personalised asthma action plan then following the First Aid for Asthma is recommended. Information and posters are available on the National Asthma Council website.

http://www.nationalasthma.org.au/first-aid


Interview by Brooke Hunter

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