Coronavirus: latest news on the community outbreak of COVID-19 – Wednesday, January 26

9:30 a.m. – With the highly contagious variant of Omicron in the community and across New Zealand under the red ‘traffic light’ setting, schools are preparing to welcome tamariki back with additional health and safety measures in place . These include vaccination, masks from year 4, physical distancing and capacity limits for certain events.

However, even with these restrictions in place, it can be a time of stress and uncertainty for families with children who have respiratory problems. The Asthma and Respiratory Foundation New Zealand (ARFNZ) says the back-to-school period is still a vulnerable time for one in seven Kiwi children with asthma.

“The back-to-school period increases the risk of respiratory hospitalization for children,” ARFNZ chief executive Letitia Harding said on Wednesday. “The ‘back-to-school effect’ is more important than the ‘winter effect’ when it comes to childhood respiratory illnesses. This is an important issue to address, and even more so with Omicron now in our communities. »

The recent ARFNZ report, The impact of respiratory disease in New Zealand: 2020 updatefound that in weeks three and four of the first trimester in 2020, respiratory illness hospitalizations increased – peaking in week three at three times the risk on the first day of the trimester.

International studies have shown that various factors are associated with the increase, including a change in environment and exposure to different allergens, changes in emotions such as stress or anxiety, and exposure to more viruses due to the presence of more people.

Recently, ARFNZ launched the Sailor Digital Classroom, an interactive digital class which ensures that all primary school children in New Zealand can be educated about asthma, regardless of the COVID-19 restrictions in place. The Foundation also hopes to secure funding for a digital te reo Māori version for Kura through Aotearoa.

To keep their children safe during the back-to-school period, parents and caregivers of children with asthma should ensure that their child has an asthma action plan in place, shared with his or her school and its teacher.

“Make sure your child takes their preventative medications as prescribed and brings their rescue inhaler to school, and check that it is not empty or expired,” said Joanna Turner, research and development manager. education at ARFNZ. “You should also tell your child about their asthma triggers, so they can do their best to avoid them. It’s also important to get the COVID-19 and flu shots and practice good hand hygiene. to prevent the spread of germs.

“Many of the measures put in place to protect against the Omicron variant will also help protect against other respiratory infections. Ensuring children with asthma take their preventative medications regularly and have an up-to-date asthma plan will also help to minimize the risk,” added ARFNZ Medical Director Dr James Fingleton.

A free, printable Back to School Checklist is also available for download from the Foundation’s website at

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