A TERRIFIED mum claims her son's asthma is so severe she is forced to homeschool him.
Eight-year-old Jahmarley regularly suffers torturous attacks, and Sonia Destouche fears his journey to class and the seven hours spent in lessons every day could kill him.
The mother-of-one, from Walthamstow, East London, said: "I teach him at home now so I can keep a better eye on him.
"He has had asthma attacks in school before and I don't want to take the risk that he could have another, and this time he might not recover."
Sonia, 49, blames her son's breathing condition - which affects 5.4million people in the UK - on the damp in their council flat.
The pair live in a one-bedroom property which is apparently riddled with mould - a known asthma trigger.
"Every day is a struggle," Sonia, who is disabled and finds it almost impossible to get by on benefits, said.
"Both Jahmarley and I have developed asthma and I think a lot of it has to do with our living conditions.
"We have lived in this flat for 11 years and it is covered in mould."
She and Jahmarley are desperate to move, but they simply can't afford to.
Living on benefits makes it difficult to pay for things like travel to and from the hospital and putting the heating on - both essential when you have asthma, Sonia said.
The rising cost of living has only worsened the situation.
"It's made things even harder for families like mine who often have to make tough choices about what they spend their money on," Sonia said.
"If I could afford it, I would move to a private rented property with no mould, in a nice area.
"Perhaps then Jahmarley’s asthma would improve and he could return to school.
"But sadly, I’m not in that situation."
Unfortunately, the mum and son are not alone.
New research by Asthma + Lung UK shows children experiencing deprivation are more than four times more likely to be hospitalised with an asthma attack when they go back to school in September than those living in wealthier neighbourhoods.
The charity found here is a 320 per cent increase in the number of five- to 19-year-olds from low-income households taken to A&E once the summer holidays end.
In the least deprived parts of the country, the rise is almost half that, at 170 per cent.
Experts blame poorer quality housing, being unable to pay to get to medical appointments and the cost of living crisis for putting extra strain on struggling families.
I don't want to take the risk that my son could have another asthma attack and not recover.
Asthma + Lung UK is now calling on the government to urgently improve respiratory care and provide tailored financial support for people on low incomes with lung conditions.
Emma Rubach, head of health advice, said: "We already know that when children go back to school after the summer holidays, we often see a spike in the number of asthma attacks, which leads to more hospital admissions.
"This is for several reasons, such as being exposed to more colds and viruses or dust mites in a school setting.
"Some youngsters might also fall out of their usual preventer inhaler routines over the summer break, which can leave them much more vulnerable to an asthma attack when they return to school and are around more triggers for their asthma.
"However, this data also shows a huge disparity between the number of children and teenagers admitted to hospital after having an asthma attack from areas where there are higher levels of deprivation, compared to areas of lower deprivation, which is very worrying.
"Reasons for this could include children living in poorer quality housing with issues like damp and mould that can trigger asthma attacks, or even experiencing higher levels of stress – another asthma trigger.
"Our studies have also shown that air pollution levels tend to be higher in more deprived areas, which could be another contributing factor."
Asthma + Lung UK analysed the most recent NHS hospital admissions data for asthma among five- to 19-year-olds in England.
Researchers compared numbers for September 2021 with the previous month, categorising regions from the most to least deprived.
They are now supporting the #AskAboutAsthma campaign, run by NHS England, which highlights the importance of getting kids help.
It also urges mums and dads to be on the lookout for signs their youngster's asthma may be worsening. This includes:
- Chest tightness
Dr Oliver Anglin, NHS England – London Clinical Director for babies, children and young people’s transformation programme, said: "Asthma is one of the most common reasons for children to end up in hospital and sadly remains a cause of death which could be prevented.
"It is also a condition where outcomes are impacted by wider factors with those from more deprived backgrounds, more than two times more likely to end up in hospital than their less deprived peers.
‘"Once again, I am supporting the #AskAboutAsthma campaign which raises the profile of this potentially life-threatening condition."
Parents and carers concerned about the return to school can help reduce their children's risk of an asthma attack by:
- Making sure they use their preventer inhaler as prescribed, even when they feel well
- Checking their reliever inhaler and spacer is in their bag before leaving for school every day
- Asking your GP for an extra reliever inhaler and spacer to give to the school or college
- Arranging an annual asthma review with your GP
- Keeping a diary of their symptoms
- Having an asthma action plan in place
- Ensuring they know how to use their inhalers properly
- Calling 999 in an emergency
What is asthma and what are the key signs?
ASTHMA is a common lung condition that causes occasional breathing difficulties.
While it often starts in childhood, it affects people of all ages.
The main symptoms are:
- A tight chest
When symptoms get worse in short bursts, this is known as an asthma attack.
While these happen randomly, there are some known triggers. These include:
- Allergies (e.g. pollen, house dust mites, animal fur)
- Smoke, pollution and cold air
- Infections like cold and flu
Asthma is usually treated using an inhaler - relievers and/or preventers.
It affects 5.4million people in the UK. That's one in 12 adults and one in 11 children.