THREE children in every class in Wales has asthma, according to new figures.
A life-saving programme to show teachers how to help pupils with the potentially fatal condition is being launched today.
Wales has one of the highest asthma rates in the world. One in 10 children here has asthma and the average class has at least three pupils with the condition, according to Asthma UK Cymru.
Despite its widespread prevalence many teachers have little knowledge of the condition which, although usually controllable, can be serious and life-threatening, the charity warned.
Across Wales 55,000 children – one in 10 – have asthma and the charity wants to ensure every teacher knows about the condition and that each school has a policy on how to cope with it.
The training programme is being launched at Lansdowne Primary in Cardiff today.
So far 10 more schools have signed up to do the training and the charity aims to reach all schools in Wales eventually.
Lansdowne head Richard Edwards said, “We take the care of our children very seriously and it is essential that all of our staff and carers are trained to look after children with this potentially life-threatening condition. This is an important project.”
Catrin Shorney, Asthma UK Cymru services development officer, said, “This training will help to ensure that school children receive the high standard of care that they deserve while at school.
“It will ensure teachers know what to do if a child they are looking after has an asthma attack and could help save lives.
“The training will also reassure the parents of children with asthma that they are in the safest possible hands and we are planning further training sessions for teachers across Wales.
“We would like to take training into all schools. We want every school to have a policy on asthma and every teacher to be aware of asthma and its implications.’’
The two-hour Alert to Asthma training for teachers will be led by a specialist asthma nurse.
It includes showing teachers how to recognise and manage asthma attacks, guidance on medicines and how inhalers are used.
Teachers will also be told when to call for medical help and what factors bring on an attack.
Asthma affects the tubes carrying air in and out of the lungs.
When a person with asthma comes into contact with something that irritates their airways, the muscles around the walls of the airways tighten so that they become narrower and the lining becomes inflamed and swollen.
All these reactions cause the airways to become narrower and irritated – making it difficult to breathe and leading to the symptoms of asthma.
Around 5.2 million people in the UK are currently receiving treatment for asthma.
Of these, 1.1 million are children, including 55,000 in Wales.
One in every five households includes a person with asthma, and one in 10 children in Wales have the condition.
‘He would have enjoyed school much more’
Single mum Pat Jones believes teacher training would have transformed her son Gwyl’s school experience.
The social worker from Bridgend says that from primary school to secondary education, teachers were afraid to deal with his severe condition. “Gwyl’s asthma scared them, I think,” she said.
“If teachers had gone through some kind of training to know how to deal with it, I think he would have enjoyed school much more.
“He felt very much like an outcast.”
Every year Pat, 44, would write out a list of instructions on how to deal with an attack for Gwyl’s new teachers. “But they were too scared to really handle it when it happened,” she recalls.
“If he had a problem playing sport, instead of just dealing with it they’d call me up and I’d have to go in and get him.
“And then they’d ban him from doing any sport, which made him feel awful, like an outsider.
“This was the case throughout all his schooling and it knocked his confidence, I think.”