CHILDREN returning to school after the summer holidays face an increased risk from potentially deadly asthma attacks, with figures showing a sudden spike in hospital admissions during August and September.

Parents are urged to look out for early warning signs as pupils return to lesson this week after figures from 2018 revealed that there was a 67 per cent increase in the number of children in Scotland hospitalised with asthma attacks in August, compared to July.

The upsurge continued into September.

The official statistics, obtained from ISD Scotland by charity Asthma UK, show that in July 2018, 43 children between the ages of five and 14 in Scotland were admitted to hospital as a result of their asthma.

This rose to 72 in August – when school resumed – and 98 in September 2018.

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Experts at the charity said this was in line with term-time patterns recorded elsewhere in the UK and previous annual trends.

Collette Harris, head of health advice at Asthma UK, said it was typical to see a spike in hospital admissions of around 60% coinciding with the start of a new term following the six-week break.

She said it was unclear exactly what causes this, but the charity believes children might become more vulnerable to triggers such as bugs and pollen because they have fallen out of their normal inhaler routine.

Ms Harris said: “There is no concrete evidence to show exactly what the spike is due to. We know that colds and bugs increase when kids go back to school. About 80% of people with asthma say colds or flu are their top trigger for asthma attacks.

“Some people struggle with changes in weather as well, if the air goes from warm to cold or humid to dry. These changes can affect people’s airways and, obviously, if a school building is really dusty and someone is allergic to dust mites, or it’s got mould and they’re allergic to mould, that can have an effect as well.

“For some people is weed pollen - nettles and things that give out pollen later in the summer season - can be a trigger as well.

“It’s really difficult to know exactly why this spike happens, but one of the main theories is that it’s just so easy to get out of the brown ‘preventer’ inhaler routine over the summer holidays.

“On schooldays you have a habit and a regime. For example, you might keep the brown inhaler at your breakfast table, or next to your toothbrush or bedside table to remind you to use it. But if you’re away visiting family or you’ve gone on holiday those routines get disrupted.

“Because you’re not dampening it down using the preventer inhaler, the inflammation in your child’s airways increases and whatever trigger your child is susceptible to, they’ll be more likely to react to it when they go back to school.”

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More than 72,000 children in Scotland have asthma, and the respiratory illness claimed the lives of 114 Scots last year.

Asthma UK says the number of children being hospitalised for their asthma when they return to school could be the tip of the iceberg as many children who have potentially life-threatening asthma attacks do not go to A&E for help.

Almost half (46%) of children under 18 who have an asthma attack manage it themselves with their parent’s help, with some seeing their GP afterwards.

The charity said it was important to spot warning signs early, such as youngsters having to use their blue ‘reliever’ inhaler more than three times in a week. Breathlessness, coughing, wheezing, and waking up during the night due to asthma symptoms were also red flags, said experts.

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Dr Andy Whittamore, a practising GP and clinical lead at Asthma UK, said: “The ‘back to school effect’ of asthma should not be underestimated as it is not only detrimental to children’s education, but it could kill.

“This August, children in Scotland should be in the classroom, learning and playing with their friends, not in hospital fighting for their lives after an asthma attack.”