Asthma and asthma management
One in 10 children is diagnosed with asthma. It is one of the most common reasons children visit the doctor and go to hospital.
It is not fully understood why children develop asthma, though people with asthma often have a family history of asthma, eczema and hay fever (allergic rhinitis). There is no way of knowing whether a child will continue to have asthma, although there are some risk factors for continuing asthma in some children.
Asthma is different for everyone—people can have different triggers, symptoms and medications for their asthma, and these can also change. Young children can be prescribed asthma medication, depending on how frequently they experience symptoms and how unwell they become. All young children with asthma should have a blue reliever puffer, spacer and mask to relieve symptoms if they have an asthma attack. Some children also have preventer medications, which need to be used daily for the period specified by their doctor, even when the child is well.
All children with asthma should have a written plan which outlines their asthma care. All educators and carers should be trained to administer asthma first aid. This includes administration of salbutamol via the child’s own blue reliever puffer, or one from an asthma emergency kit. It’s best to use a spacer and mask to make sure the medication is delivered effectively.
What does this mean for early childhood education and care services?
Services can expect to have 10 per cent of children with a current diagnosis of asthma. They can also expect that at some time a child will have their first asthma attack while in care. Services should be prepared.
The national law and regulations are explicit about management of medical conditions, and of asthma, diabetes and anaphylaxis in particular. They identify a minimum standard for training (at least one person on duty at any time must have current approved training in Emergency Asthma Management) and give direction regarding first aid kits, medication management, record keeping, working with families and other carers, and risk management.
Asthma Foundations around Australia have been supporting education and care services for over 10 years to be Asthma Friendly. Staff who participated in this program reported feeling much more confident about meeting their obligations in relation to children with asthma (Healy, 2012).
In an Asthma Friendly early childhood education service, the majority of educators and carers are trained in asthma first aid. Asthma Foundations offer one-hour sessions, and key staff can progress to the three-hour competency-assessed Emergency Asthma Management qualification as required; Asthma Emergency Kits (AEKs), which include salbutamol medication, a spacer and mask are available to administer asthma first aid; asthma first aid posters are publicly displayed; and staff and families can access asthma information. Policies at the service are also Asthma Friendly.
Asthma Foundations around Australia can offer evidence-based, quality training, equipment and resources to help your staff and families better support children with asthma and to enable your service to become Asthma Friendly.
For more information about asthma, asthma training and resources, contact your local Asthma Foundation: 1800 ASTHMA (1800 278 462) or www.asthmaaustralia.org.au.
Healy, T. (2012), Annual Evaluation Report—Asthma Child and Adolescent Program. In possession of Asthma Australia, Kent Town, South Australia.
Every Child magazine – vol. 18 no. 4, 2012.
Don’t forget, Every Child is tax deductible for early childhood professionals
You can purchase this issue of Every Child magazine now.
Additional information and resources on asthma and asthma management are available here.
Where’s the Air? A Kids Guide to Asthma and Safety by Air Oasis.