More than 1.5 million school days are missed every year by children with asthma, it has emerged.
Asthma is the most common chronic disease in children in Ireland — one in five have the respiratory condition which causes them to miss around 10 school days every year.
The Asthma Society Ireland held its first Bubble Day yesterday to raise funds for a network of support groups throughout the country for parents and carers of the 185,143 children with the disease.
Over the last 12 years, 13 children have died from asthma but such deaths could be dramatically reduced by managing the disease more effectively.
Bubble Day is all about creating awareness of the importance of parents managing their child’s asthma.
“Parents of children with asthma urgently need more information and support to help them better understand and manage their child’s condition,” said Pheena Kenny, the society’s head of health promotion.
The society piloted a parent and carers’ programme last year and now wants to provide a more comprehensive one, if enough funds from Bubble Day are raised.
The five-week (15-hour) programme will be delivered by the society’s health promotion and asthma nurse specialists.
“This programme aims to improve parents/carers confidence in managing their child’s asthma,” said Ms Kenny.
Bubble Day took place on World Asthma Day — a global initiative to raise awareness of the chronic disease and to increase knowledge of the most effective ways to control and treat it.
Ireland has the fourth highest prevalence of asthma in the world. Every 26 minutes someone visits an hospital emergency department because of an asthma attack. While some children will grow out of it, it can often reoccur later in life. One in 10 adults suffers from the long-term condition.
Boots Ireland has partnered with Asthma Society for Bubble Day. Boots pharmacies will be providing free consultations this month.
People can check they are using the correct inhaler technique and find out how to get the most out of their medicines. They can also learn ways to make positive disease management changes.
Hailey Furlong missed six weeks of school last year over severe asthma.
Hailey, 7, from Cabra, Dublin, has a persistent cough that started before her first birthday.
Antibiotics and other medications had little or no effect.
Eventually, Hailey’s mother, Mandy, took her to the Children’s University Hospital, Temple St, Dublin, where asthma was diagnosed.
Hailey’s asthma can be quite severe and she often needs to visit hospital to have it managed. She also has a nut allergy and suffers from eczema.
“I worry about her missing so much school but she is a bright little girl and has not fallen behind. Her school principal has been very understanding,” said Mandy.
Mandy described her daughter, who is in first class, as a fun-loving little girl who loves her hip-hop dancing classes.
“She could be really sick but would not let it bother her. She is on a lot of medication and I worry that it might affect her long term.”
Hailey’s siblings may also have asthma but a diagnosis has yet to be made: “They have similar symptoms but these are not as bad as their sister’s.”
Sometimes when Hailey experienced a particularly bad asthma attack, she did not want to eat.
“It can be quite stressful watching her lying on the sofa and coughing so hard that she can’t do anything else,” said Mandy.
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