Asthma ‘February epidemic’ looms

boy using inhaler and spacer

Ahead of the start of the 2017 school year, the National Asthma Council Australia is asking pharmacists to help their young asthma patients be ready for a safe return to the classroom

The ‘February Epidemic’, a big asthma spike in children immediately after school goes back, is a well-recognised and documented phenomenon.

Studies in Australia and the UK have shown asthma hospitalisations surge during the first month of the school year, with cases in Australia rising as much as threefold in children aged five to 14 years and doubling in pre-schoolers.

While increased risks have also been recorded at the start of subsequent school terms, the February spike is by far the most significant.

National Asthma Council Australia Director and pharmacist, Stephen Hughes says that as one in 10 Australian children have asthma, pharmacists and parents need to be prepared for back to school time.

“Now is the time to ask your patients whether all their inhalers are in date – especially those in sports bags or at school,” he says.

“Make sure they have a spacer and know how to use it correctly. A good initiative would be to set up an area in-store for conducting a back to school parents’ and children’s inhaler technique refresher.

“Taking these preventative measures before and during the first few weeks of school can go a long way to helping keep children with asthma out of hospital.”

Mr Hughes says that the start of school is also a good opportunity for pharmacists to help their patients set a goal for the year to motivate them to keep their asthma under control such as for activities important to them like sport and dance or to help them concentrate during exams.

“No child with asthma should have to miss out on participating in sports or leading an active life.”

The National Asthma Council Australia has issued the following clinical tips, which support best practice asthma care, to help parents of children with asthma prepare for the new school year:

  • When children with asthma present for any reason, ask about asthma and being ready for asthma when at school;
  • Make sure each child has an up-to-date written asthma action plan and the child and/or parents understand how to follow it;
  • Remind parents to get their child back into their asthma routine before the school year starts, including taking preventer medications every day, if prescribed;
  • Recommend a full asthma check-up with a doctor before the school year starts, or at least before activities like sports lessons start, to make sure all is as well as can be; and
  • Take the opportunity to check that the child and/or parents are using inhalers correctly.

Asthma action plan templates and demonstration videos on inhaler techniques can be accessed at Pharmacists may also like to download the back to school checklist for parents and carers prepared by Asthma Australia available at

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