Asthma awareness

Issue: Volume 98, Number 7

Posted: 2 May 2019
Reference #: 1H9tgm

Asthma emergency awareness is being brought to schools through free activity packs this May.

St Benedict’s School in Wellington taking part in World Asthma Day 2018.

Schools are being encouraged to educate young people about what to do in an asthma emergency as part of World Asthma Day on 7 May.

Chief Executive of Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ (ARFNZ) Letitia O’Dwyer says the foundation is providing schools with free activity packs to promote awareness of the condition.

The packs will be sent out to teachers who register and include lesson plans for activities that teach children about lung function, asthma triggers and emergency response.

As well as providing the activity kits, ARFNZ is reminding schools to check that their asthma emergency kits are up to date.

Last year over 90 New Zealand schools participated in World Asthma Day.

“We received great feedback from schools as the students had a fabulous time doing the activities while also learning about asthma,” Letitia says.

ARFNZ also provides schools with resources throughout the year. These include an interactive ‘Teachers’ Asthma Toolkit’ website, as well as Sailor the Puffer Fish, a musical show that educates primary school children about asthma in English and te reo Māori.

Asthma is characterised by sensitive airways that can lead to breathing difficulties. One in seven New Zealand children has asthma, with an estimated 586,000 school days lost each year to asthma symptoms.

ARFNZ’s resources for teachers can be found at:

To sign up for a free activity pack, please contact

Asthma guidance for schools and early learning services

The Ministry of Education provides guidance on Asthma and Learning on the Ministry’s Inclusive Education(external link) website.

It brings together asthma policy templates, checklists, emergency information, the Foundation’s fun classroom and home activities, role plays and lesson plans.

Because of the prevalence of asthma in New Zealand tamariki, there is a likelihood of an asthma emergency happening in the presence of teachers and school or service staff.

Uncontrolled asthma also impacts tamariki wellbeing and achievement. Otago University has found that children who start school with asthma are more likely to be at least six months behind in reading compared to children without asthma at the end of their first year of school.

Teachers play a role in supporting students through the New Zealand Curriculum to be confident in understanding and managing their own health and wellbeing. This will in turn impact positively on tamariki presence and learning at school.

Quick tips

If you find yourself dealing with a distressed student or colleague, remember these points:

  • Assess whether the person is experiencing mild, moderate or severe asthma.
  • Sit the person upright and stay with them.
  • Treat the person. Mild asthma can be treated with two doses of reliever inhaler. Moderate or severe asthma should be treated with six doses of reliever inhaler, one puff of medicine at a time and with six breaths per puff.
  • Help. If the symptoms do not improve after six minutes, call an ambulance and continue to treat the person with six puffs every six minutes until help arrives.
  • Monitor. If the person is improving after six minutes, keep monitoring.
  • All okay! When the person is free of wheeze, cough or breathlessness, return to a quiet activity. If the symptoms recur repeat treatment and rest.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 12:29 pm, 2 May 2019

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