Deadly asthma attacks could spike to ‘unprecedented levels’ when children go back to school, experts have warned.
Charity Asthma UK said the Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted care for thousands of affected youngsters, which could have severe consequences.
It estimates more than 130,000 children with the condition in England have missed out on an annual medical catch-up due to the coronavirus.
But the charity said asthma checks, where a child’s inhaler technique is checked and their asthma action plan reviewed, can be carried out remotely.
And it said the checks are essential in keeping children well and out of hospital, and called on parents to take urgent action to book their child in with their GP.
Asthma UK expressed concern that the number of asthma attacks could ‘surge’ when children return to school.
September typically sees a surge in asthma attacks as children return to school, usually due to a number of factors including seasonal allergies, exposure to colds and viruses.
During the long summer break, some parents fall out of the habit of getting their children to regularly use their preventer inhaler, which can also make them more sensitive to triggers when they return to school, the charity added.
The charity has estimated that 71 per cent of children with asthma have not returned to school since March, which could mean they have been out of their usual habits for an even longer period, it said.
As well as urging parents to book an asthma check, it also called on parents to remember their usual asthma care and get back into good routines before their child goes back to school.
‘Unless parents act now, asthma attacks could rise to unprecedented levels when children go back to school,’ said Emma Rubach, head of health advice at Asthma UK.
‘Children have already missed a lot of school because of the pandemic so it’s vital that parents ensure they are prepared for their return to the classroom by making sure they take their preventer medicine every day.
‘If their routine has slipped, it’s time to urgently get back to it – to avoid a hospital admission when term starts.
‘The NHS is open for business and if your child’s annual asthma review has been cancelled then it’s important that you contact your GP surgery to reschedule it.’
National guidelines state everyone with asthma should have an annual review with a GP or specialised nurse.
But doctors were allowed to suspend them for three months to free up capacity in response to the pandemic.
During these sessions, a patient’s inhaler technique is checked and they are given a written action plan on how to manage their condition.
Failure to use an inhaler properly means the full dose of medicine cannot reach the lungs, with much of the drug staying in the mouth or throat.
Reliever inhalers — which are usually blue — contain steroids to relax muscles in the airways, which narrow during an asthma attack.
Other inhalers, known as preventers, reduce inflammation in the airways to prevent patients from suffering attacks.
Patients who use their preventer inhaler every day as prescribed have less sensitive airways, and are less likely to suffer an attack.
Figures show around 5.4million people in Britain have asthma, including 1.1million children.
Asthma UK estimates somebody in the UK suffers an attack — which can be life-threatening — every three seconds.
Government data showed asthma deaths last year were the highest they had been for a decade, with around three fatalities every day.