Asthma exam risk

A charity is warning that almost a million children with asthma triggered by pollen are at risk of dropping a grade at exam time

Asthma UK is advising parents and students to take preventative steps to ensure their asthma doesn’t hinder their exam success as research shows that having a diagnosis of asthma means they are 30 percent more likely to drop a grade between mock and final exams.

More than a million children have asthma in the UK – around two in every classroom – and four in every 52 people with asthma also have hay fever, putting them at increased risk of an attack. Research shows that there are peaks in hospital admissions for asthma one to three days after high pollen levels have been recorded, typically in the summer months, during the exam season.

Research also shows that children who experience hay fever symptoms while taking their GCSE exams are 40 percent more likely to drop a grade between their mocks and final exams. This figure rises to 70 percent if taking antihistamines with sedative effects.  

Dr Samantha Walker, who is director of research and policy at Asthma UK and conducted the research, says: “Asthma and hayfever are not trivial conditions, particularly when some people have both; research shows that pollen can trigger potentially life-threatening asthma attacks and it can affect school performance so much so that it can damage your future career prospects. By getting a head start now you should be able to stop symptoms in their tracks, before they appear.”

The charity has also published five key pieces of advice for students with asthma:  

1 Make an appointment with your GP or nurse because they can check that you are on the right treatment, that you are taking the right dose, and whether or not you also need other prescription hay fever medicines

2 Don’t wait for your hay fever symptoms to start; you can start taking nasal steroid sprays before the peak of the pollen season, adding in non-drowsy antihistamines when symptoms are troublesome

3 The best way to build resilience to any asthma trigger, including pollen, is to take your preventer inhaler daily, as prescribed by your GP or asthma nurse. This medicine helps to stop asthma attacks so needs to be taken every day to have an effect

4 It’s also vital you carry your reliever inhaler on you so that if you do have an attack you can treat it immediately

5 Know the signs that your asthma is getting worse and what to do about it by filling in or updating your written asthma action plan. You can download one from 

The pollen count is highest early in the morning (and at dusk) so Asthma UK is advising schools to be mindful of this in relation to the timing of exams first thing, and to ensure students who do have hay fever and/or asthma are seated away from open windows and are allowed to carry their reliever inhaler on them or have easy access to one.

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