GPs are calling on parents and carers of children with asthma in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire to start using their inhalers before they go back to school.
The advice comes a week before thousands of children return to school, temperatures start to reduce, and children are exposed to the usual increased risk of infection as they join hundreds of other pupils after the summer break.
Evidence shows that using inhalers preventatively, ie before symptoms of wheezing occur, reduces the risk of becoming unwell. Using spacers, the plastic tube or cone-shaped devices, also significantly increases effectiveness.
It is estimated that 1 in 11 children in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire have asthma. A child is admitted to hospital every 20 minutes in the UK because of an asthma attack.
For many, symptoms only occur during the winter months, which means that often inhalers are found to be lost, broken or out of date when families find they need them most.
The free HANDi app carries simple advice about how to care for a child with asthma or wheezy chest, along with other common childhood illnesses, and is available to download.
Dr Kirsty Alexander, GP at Southmead & Henbury Family Practice and children’s services lead for NHS Bristol Clinical Commissioning Group said:
"Just last week, I saw a child who had difficulty breathing when he came back from a foreign holiday, possibly triggered by the cooler air temperature and a minor virus . And when he went to use his inhaler for the first time in a year, he found it was empty. If he’d been able to use it straight away he would have got better a lot quicker. So this advice is about getting ready. You’ve bought the shoes and the lunch box – now just check your child’s inhaler and spacer. And for many children with asthma and other respiratory conditions, a daily puff on their preventative inhaler for a few days before school starts will give them that extra bit of resilience to weather the return to school."
"The free HANDI App is also a great way to check on symptoms and how to care for children with asthma and a range of other common illnesses and well worth having at your fingertips It’s an exciting and happy time for the vast majority of children. Simple preventative measures, or even just checking inhalers are working and in date, will allow them to concentrate on learning and seeing their friends, instead of going down with autumn bugs or getting wheezy as soon as the air gets damper."