independent

Sunday 22 October 2017

Schools urged to eliminate risk by putting inhalers in first aid kit

A lack of inhalers in Wicklow schools could cost a life, according to the Asthma Society of Ireland.

Last week, over 5,600 asthmatic children returned to school in Wicklow and the Asthma Society has warned that every school should have an asthma inhaler in their first aid kit in case of an emergency.

However, two years after a new scheme was put in place by then-Minister for Health Leo Varadkar not a single school has received an emergency asthma inhaler under it. This, combined with a reluctance by some teachers (who are not trained health professionals) to administer asthma medication, is putting children's lives at risk, the society claims.

With one in five school-going children having asthma, CEO of the Asthma Society Averil Power said it is 'inevitable that many schools will have to deal with a student having an asthma attack' at some point.

'Unfortunately, several British children have died from fatal asthma attacks at school in recent years. It is essential we do everything we can to avoid a similar tragedy here,' she said.

'Having immediate access to emergency medication can be the difference between life and death. The previous Minister for Health recognised this when he introduced a new scheme allowing schools and other community facilities to obtain inhalers without a prescription for their first aid kits in case students forget theirs.'

While the society acknowledges that this was a positive move, Ms Power said the society warned Minister for Health Simon Harris last year that the 'excessive conditions associated with the scheme have made it unworkable in practice.'

She said that the answer to a parliamentary question has revealed that not one single school has used the scheme to obtain an inhaler.

'This failure is putting lives at risk and must be addressed by the Minister without further delay,' said Ms Power.

The Asthma Society's Medical Adviser Professor Richard Costello believes Minister Harris should make it clear to teachers that they 'should not be reluctant to give a child reliever medication in an asthma emergency.

'The potential side effects, such as shakiness and increased heart rate, are minor and temporary. Up to eight puffs of salbutamol can safely be taken in one day. Delay in taking medication, on the other hand, could cost a life,' he said.

The Asthma Society has published a range of free resources for schools on its website www.asthma.ie. Parents or teachers who want more information or advice can also speak to a nurse for free by calling the society's adviceline on 1800 44 54 64.

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