Ask the Expert: Is it safe to send my asthmatic child back to school?
When primary school children start returning to school after lockdown, a GP outlines precautions parents of children with asthma should take
Q: My son isn't shielding but has asthma. Will I be putting him at risk by sending him back to school after lockdown ends?
A: Respiratory expert and GP Dr Andy Whittamore, Asthma UK (Asthma.org.uk) clinical lead, says: "Going back to school after a long break is usually an exciting time for children. Understandably, parents of children with asthma are more concerned this time round, and may be worried about sending their child back to school after a long time at home.
"It's not clear whether going back to school after the lockdown will affect children's asthma. We do know that when children with asthma go back to school after the summer holidays, they are often more at risk of having asthma attacks. This could be for a number of reasons, including more exposure to triggers such as colds and seasonal allergies, or their preventer medicine routine being disrupted over the summer holidays.
"Asthma doesn't make you more likely to get coronavirus, but unfortunately if people with long-term lung conditions like asthma get coronavirus, it can be more severe. Reassuringly, the number of children with asthma becoming seriously unwell with Covid-19 is low.
"If you have concerns about your child's return to school, contact your GP, who will be able to assess whether their asthma is well-controlled.
"Regardless of when your child is returning to school, there are things you can do now to prepare them for getting back to the classroom. Getting into a good routine will prevent potentially life-threatening asthma attacks. Ensuring they take their preventer medicines regularly, go for asthma reviews and have an up-to-date asthma action plan will help keep their symptoms under control.
"Getting into a good routine with preventer inhalers is important because the medicine builds up over time, helping to protect the airways.
"Avoiding triggers like catching a back to school cold or hay fever can be tough, so it's important to make sure your child is taking their preventer inhaler 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.
"Book an urgent appointment if your child is using their reliever inhaler three or more times a week, coughing or wheezing at night, or feeling out of breath.
"When your child is returning to school, if the school doesn't have extra inhalers already, ask your doctor for one. School staff are able to help children with their inhalers in a first aid situation."