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Millions of school children head back to the classroom this week but for many the term ahead will be an anxious one...
Millions of school children head back to the classroom this week but for many the term ahead will be an anxious one. For many of the UK's estimated 1.3 million children with asthma, whether or not they are allowed to keep their potentially life-saving reliever inhalers with them at all times is something of a lottery, warns the National Asthma Campaign.

Many schools still do not have an appropriate asthma policy, although some have adopted the National Asthma Campaign's own guidelines.

Surveys have shown that many teachers are unclear about how best they can support children with asthma, the NAC says

National Asthma Campaign chief executive Melinda Letts said: 'In every class there are likely to be several children with asthma and our recent survey of 10,000 children carried out in conjunction Blue Peter showed that one in three has had a bad asthma attack at school.'

Revealing that only half the children surveyed carried their inhaler with them, Ms Letts continued: 'Every single school should have an asthma policy which allows all children to carry their inhaler with them, or, in the case of the youngest, gives them easy access to it. We hope that the long-awaited department for education guidelines on supporting pupils with special medical needs, due next month, will help to address this issue.'

In a bid to change the way some schools tackle asthma, the National Asthma Campaign today launches a new video which it hopes will help educate both teachers and pupils about every aspect of the condition which now effects 1 in 10 school age children.

The 20 minute video, which costs £11.99 and is suitable for both primary and secondary schools in the UK, looks at asthma and its causes, what if feels like to have the condition, medication and what to do during an attack.

'Children with asthma can feel quite isolated because they realise they are different from other children in their class. In fact, one in three say they feel shy about using their puffer in class or in front of others. This video is all about educating both their peers and school staff so everybody realises what asthma involves,'' said Ms. Letts.

The video contains hints, tips and advice about what causes asthma symptoms - everyday items such as paint, glue and white board marker pens, for example, can trigger an attack - and what to do if a child starts to become breathless.

The video warns that PE teachers in particular need to be knowledgeable, especially as the Blue Peter survey results showed some 55% of school children with asthma said their condition was triggered by exercise.

'We are very worried to learn that one in three children has had a bad asthma attack at school and that half still do not carry their reliever inhalers with them. Over half say that exercise triggers their asthma, and we are particularly worried about lack of access to inhalers during PE lessons. It is vitally important that PE teachers are helped to understand what children with asthma need before, during and after the lesson,' said Ms Letts.

The National Asthma Campaign already produces a comprehensive schools pack which provides information, posters and a step by step guide to what to do when a child has an asthma attack.

'What we hope is that teachers will base an entire lesson around this new video so everyone involved in the school can recognise that asthma is an important condition affecting over a million school children,' she concluded.

-- Copies of the National Asthma Campaign Schools pack are available free of charge from the National Asthma Campaign at Providence House, Providence Place, London N1 0NT, 0171-226 2260. Preview copies of the video are available to schools from Pink Cow Ltd, 113 Liscombe, Bracknell, Berks, 867007.

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