Experts advise to vaccinate children with asthma before school starts

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The National Asthma Council Australia is encouraging parents and carers of children with asthma to vaccinate them before the start of the school year to help protect them from becoming seriously ill with Covid-19.

Dr Louisa Owens, paediatric respiratory physician and member of the National Asthma Council Australia Guidelines Committee says that as predicted, Covid-19 case numbers have increased substantially following Christmas and New Year celebrations.

“Australia’s Covid-19 vaccination program opened up to children aged 5 – 11 from 10 January and we are urging parents and carers of children with asthma to get their child vaccinated as soon as possible.

“If parents are unsure about getting their child with asthma vaccinated, then we encourage them to make an appointment with their GP in January and have a discussion before their child starts the 2022 school year,” says Dr Owens.

A recent study of 2020 data on Covid in children from tertiary hospitals across Australia found that most children with Covid-19 had mild disease, however, respiratory conditions were the number one comorbidity amongst positive children, with asthma the leading diagnosis. The study authors also stated that preventative strategies, such as vaccination, including children and adolescents, could reduce both the acute and post-infective manifestations of the disease.

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) President Dr Karen Price backed the call for vaccinations for children with asthma and says that good asthma control is vital for children starting back at school.

“Our GP network is here ready to answer any questions that parents or carers might have about the Covid-19 vaccine for their child with asthma,” she says.

“January is also an ideal time to have a full asthma check-up including a review of your child’s Written Asthma Action Plan, medications and inhaler technique for relievers and preventers ahead of the February back-to-school asthma spike.”

The sharp rise in children being admitted to hospital with asthma in February each year is thought to be due to a change of environment or allergens, sharing a new set of bugs with classmates, which can trigger colds and respiratory infections and possibly missing preventer doses over the holidays.

The National Asthma Council Australia has prepared the following checklist to help the one-in-nine Australian children living with asthma, to have a symptom-free return to school:

  • Schedule an asthma check-up with your health provider and discuss the Covid-19 vaccine for your child if you have questions.
  • Share a copy of your child’s up-to-date Written Asthma Action Plan with school staff and after-school carers.
  • Make sure your child knows to tell school staff when they have asthma symptoms.
  • Make sure your child is taking any asthma prevention medicine as prescribed
  • Check that your child knows how to effectively use their inhaler by themselves (if old enough), or with help.
  • Get the seasonal flu shot every year for your child and family members.

Download the National Asthma Council Australia’s Back to School Checklist here and more resources are available at nationalasthma.org.au including how-to video tutorials demonstrating the proper use of asthma medications.