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Monitoring epidemiological trends in back to school asthma among preschool and school-aged children using real-time syndromic surveillance in England, 2012–2016

Abstract

Background Back to school (BTS) asthma has been previously reported in children; however, its epidemiology and associated healthcare burden are unclear. We aimed to describe the timing and magnitude of BTS asthma using surveillance data from different health services in England.

Methods Asthma morbidity data from emergency department attendances and general practitioner (GP) consultations between April 2012 and December 2016 were used from national syndromic surveillance systems in England. Age-specific and sex-specific rates and time series of asthma peaks relative to school term dates were described. The timing of a BTS excess period and adjusted rates of asthma relative to a baseline period were estimated using cumulative sum control chart plots and negative binomial regression.

Results BTS asthma among children aged below 15 years was most pronounced at the start of the school year in September. This effect was not present among those aged 15 years and above. After controlling for sex and study year, the adjusted daily rate of childhood GP in-hours asthma consultations was 2.5–3 times higher in the BTS excess period, with a significantly higher effect among children aged 0–4 years. A distinct age-specific pattern of sex differences in asthma presentations was present, with a higher burden among males in children and among females aged over 15 years.

Conclusion We found evidence of a BTS asthma peak in children using surveillance data across a range of healthcare systems, supporting the need for further preventative work to reduce the impact of BTS asthma in children.

  • asthma
  • asthma exacerbation
  • school
  • general practitioner
  • emergency department
  • surveillance
  • children
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