Asthma attacks on the increase as children return to school warns school

The number of Scottish children being hospitalised for asthma attacks in September nearly triples after starting the new school term

Ahead of the new school year, leading health charity, Asthma + Lung UK Scotland warns that according to their new analysis, many children could be at risk of having a potentially life-threatening asthma attack after returning to the classroom. 

Preventer inhaler routines can get disrupted over the holidays, so children's airways can be more sensitive to asthma triggers when they go back to school.  

With an estimated 71,000 children with asthma in Scotland, Asthma + Lung UK Scotland has revealed that over the past seven years, hospital admissions for children aged 5 to 19 in Scotland, spike in August and September when children return to school, compared to July.

Alison Deans is a nurse living in East Kilbride. Her sons are 11 and 5 and were pre-schoolers when they started to develop asthma. She said:

“It is always a slightly anxious time for a mum when your children return to school for the autumn, or when they start school for the first time as my youngest is about to, as they are more susceptible to coughs and colds and picking up the inevitable bugs that are going around. And no one wants this to become a trigger for your child to have an asthma attack.

“It’s easy over the summer holidays to fall out of the routine of taking medicines, so I try to be extra mindful for the boys to continue with their preventer medicines to help give them more protection as they head back to the classroom.”

Joseph Carter, Head of Asthma + Lung UK Scotland said:

“We already know that when children go back to school after the summer holidays, we often see a spike in the number of asthma attacks, which leads to more hospital admissions. 

"This is for several reasons, such as being exposed to more colds and other viruses or dust mites in a school setting, or seasonal allergies such as mould. 

"Some youngsters might also fall out of their usual preventer inhaler routines over the summer break, which can leave them much more vulnerable to an asthma attack when they return to school and are around more triggers for their asthma.”

With children across most parts of Scotland due to return to school in just over a week, Asthma + Lung UK Scotland is urging parents to be on their guard and look out for signs that their child’s asthma may be worsening, such as  wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, and breathlessness, and advises them to take urgent action. 

If you are a parent or carer of a child or teenager with asthma and are concerned about their return to school, you can help reduce their risk of an asthma attack by doing the following:

•    As a priority, make sure they use their preventer inhaler daily, as prescribed, even when they feel well, as this helps to build up protection in their airways over time 

•    Check that your child's reliever inhaler (usually blue) is in their bag before leaving for school every day. It should be kept somewhere they can get to easily at any time, like during PE or if they are on a school trip.  

•    Ask your doctor's surgery for an extra reliever inhaler and give it to your child's school or college. This should preferably be in its original packaging. Send in a spacer too, if your child uses one. It should always be easily accessible and not stored in a locked cupboard  

•    Arrange for your child to have an annual asthma review with their GP or asthma nurse. This will help pick up any early symptoms.

•    Have an asthma action plan – this tells the youngster and their school or college which medicines they take every day to prevent symptoms and cut their risk of an asthma attack and what to do if their symptoms are getting worse. This should be shared with their school, college, any carers, and medical professionals. You can download one from Asthma + Lung UK’s website here: 

•    Make sure your child knows how to use their inhalers properly. You can arrange an inhaler technique check through your GP or asthma nurse and some pharmacies also provide this service. Asthma + Lung UK has a guide here: 

•    If a child is having an asthma attack and their symptoms are not improving with a reliever inhaler, call 999 and follow our asthma attack advice for children at