The most common chronic disease affecting children, asthma, is a leading cause of missed school days and hospital visits – most of which can be prevented with proper asthma management.
With September back to school season just around the corner, the BC Lung Association is urging families with children affected by asthma to prepare by ensuring an up-to-date asthma action plan is in place.
As many as eight percent of BC children are living with asthma and as many as one in 10 will end up in the emergency department (ED) each year. Of those ED visits, 60 to 75 percent occur between September and March due to uncontrolled asthma symptoms.
Viruses, including the common cold, are believed to be the main cause of asthma flare-ups. Other possible causes include: not taking controller medication as prescribed during the summer vacation; the stress of returning to school; allergic triggers at school such as mould and dust; and more air pollution as school buses and commuters return after the holidays.
“Asthma action plans help patients take control of their asthma, know when to adjust their medications, and decide when to seek urgent care. The challenge is less than half Canada’s asthma population know what an action plan is, and less than a quarter have one in place,” said Dr. Menn Biagtan, VP Health Programs & Initiatives for the BC Lung Association.
“We know with an active asthma action plan in place, patients are more likely to take their medication as prescribed and be proactive about controlling their condition. And we know well-controlled asthma can reduce hospitalizations, emergency visits, urgent physician visits and missed school days, not to mention patients feel consistently better,” she added.
Asthma attacks are at the root of more than 3,000 child hospital visits in BC per year. One in four hospital visits lead to hospital admission, most of which involve children aged five years and under.
The BC Lung Association is working with BC child health advocates, including BC Children’s Hospital and UBC Faculty of Medicine, to help ensure BC families affected by asthma receive consistent evidence-based asthma management messaging province-wide.
“Asthma guidelines in BC have traditionally focused primarily on the adult population,” continued Biagtan. “But over the past few years BC healthcare professionals have worked to tailor resources specifically for children with asthma, including action plan templates,” she added.
Newly developed BC childhood asthma resources can be accessed through bc.lung.ca.
Before school season starts, the BC Lung Association recommends families affected:
- Work with your doctor/health care provider and put an asthma action plan into place.
- Provide a copy of your child's asthma action plan and explain what it means to their teacher.
- Educate your child’s teachers about asthma.
- List and explain your child’s asthma triggers and why it's important to avoid them.
- Show teachers your child’s asthma medications and how to use them properly.
- Make sure the teachers know which one is the rescue medication that helps in an asthma emergency (usually the blue inhaler).
- Ask about the school's rules for asthma medication.
- Ask about policies for field trips and emergency actions.
- Remind your child to wash hands often and properly.
Should you still have questions, call the BC Lung Association and speak to a qualified lung health educators at 1-800-665-LUNG (5864)
About the BC Lung Association
From their first to last breath, we're committed to giving the 1 in 5 British Columbians affected by a lung condition hope, help and a voice. For more than 110 years, we have led the fight for healthy lungs and healthy air, whether it's searching for cures to lung diseases, keeping kids off tobacco and e-cigarettes, or fighting for laws that protect the air we all breathe.