Asthma, allergies - what you need to know about sending kids back to school

With kids back to school this week and most of us back at work, we're slipping away from summer into our everyday routines. This means we're off the beach, and back into offices and classrooms. But it's not just the lack of sunshine that can cause some major setbacks to our health.

With half a million New Zealanders struggling with asthma and one-in-three with allergies, the environment you spend all day in has a major impact on symptoms.

Dr Anne Steinemann reports that almost eight percent of Australians have lost workdays or a job due to illness from fragranced product exposure in the workplace, and 16.4 percent reported health problems when exposed to air fresheners or deodorisers.

Head of education and research at Asthma and Respiratory foundation Teresa Demetriou says it can be a tough time for kids struggling with repertory conditions.

"Going back to school after a long break children means children have often been lax with their medications, or forgetting to take their preventer medications" she explains to Newshub. 

"Your preventer needs to be taken every day usually to keeps symptoms at bay and your breathing tubes relaxed.

"Once children head back to school their breathing can be hindered by all the triggers at school, as well as added stress or anxiety."

She says at school children are often coming across moulds and pollen and fragrances they're not exposed to at home.

"They use different chemicals for cleaning the classrooms, children are arriving with different deodorants on. If there's a child with asthma in the class [other children] need to be aware of the sprays they use and things they're putting on their skin, and be aware of what to do in an emergency."

She advises teachers to also know what to look for in an emergency, and to turn to some online resources for support. 

Holistic health specialist Kaytee Boyd from the Boyd Clinic echoes the sentiments, and says she encourages all her clients to use natural products.

"We're a living experiment at the moment; the longer we're exposed to chemicals the more problems it's creating," she says.

She says the main problem is the amount of fragrance in the deodorants, cleaning products and of course perfumes, we all are using on a daily basis.

"It can cause itchiness, puffiness, rashes, it's really not that much fun," she says.

"Young children seem to be affected quite significantly now. We used to have thousands of bacteria species in our guts and we know it's now much less. That's part of the reason why chemicals can cause more problems - bacteria are part of our filtration subsystem," she explains.

So where to start?

Boyd recommends first tackling the stuff you put on your clothes.

"When you think about your clothes, they're going be on your body for an eight, nine, ten hour day," she says. "When you heat up you absorb a lot of those fragrances and chemicals.

"Also looking at your deodorants and cleaning products and what you wash your house with is a really good start."

Boyd recommends fragrance free products, like the ultra-sensitive Ecostore range which carries the Asthma and Respiratory foundation Sensitive Choice approval, meaning the products have been assessed by a panel of health professionals.