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Southwark’s top GP offers advice for parents whose children have asthma

As the summer holidays draw to a close, parents and children are starting to prepare for the return to school.

If you have a child who suffers from asthma, you would be advised to think about this too, amid the business of new uniforms, bags, etc.

This is because mid-September is the peak time of year for asthma attacks in children, triggered by them coming into contact with viruses during the first two weeks back at school.

Over the school holidays, when people are out of their usual routines, it can be easy to overlook the everyday habits we do automatically – such as using preventer inhalers. This means when children return to school, they are often not fully prepared for the viruses that they are exposed to when they are back in the closed environment.

Asthma can be triggered by many things including pollen, perfumes, animal hair and fur, tobacco and common cold and flu viruses. Children without asthma may have a runny nose, sneezing or mild cough. In children with asthma who are susceptible to viruses, the symptoms can cause excessive inflammation of airways which causes a narrowing of breathing tubes, leading to wheezing and difficulty in breathing.

The best way of avoiding this for children with asthma is to make sure the airways can’t over-react to the triggers – which means using the preventer inhaler every day, even if they feel well. The preventer is usually brown, but can be other colours – however a ‘preventer’ is never blue, this is the ‘rescue’ inhaler for when attacks happen.

If you think your child needs a preventer inhaler, contact your GP surgery. If you or your child is not sure how to use an inhaler properly, ask a local pharmacist to show you how.

Good hand hygiene will also help reduce the risk of infection once children are back at school and it’s not too early to think about getting a flu vaccine. Children with asthma can become very ill if they catch flu, but it’s recommended for all.


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