Fighting ‘September Surge’ in Asthma
Asthma is one of the most common chronic disorders among young people, affecting an estimated 7 million children and adolescents in this country. And this month is one of the worst times of year for kids with asthma.
“September presents a number of factors that can trigger both more frequent and more serious asthma episodes in children,” said W. Adam Gower, M.D., a pediatric lung specialist at Brenner Children’s Hospital, part of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.
The start of the school year is a major element in the “September surge” in asthma. In school, children are often exposed to more indoor allergens (mold, dust mites) and environmental irritants (dust, cleaning products) than they are likely to encounter at home, and are at greater risk of contracting contagious viral infections (cold, flu). All of these can increase the frequency and severity of asthma attacks. Add the seasonal rise in certain plant allergens, such as ragweed pollen, and the often-dramatic changes in temperature and humidity, and it’s no wonder that September is an especially rough time for young people with asthma.
But there are steps that can be taken to reduce the chances that it will be a month of misery. Gower offers the following tips for parents of children who have asthma:
- Touch base with your child’s asthma care provider to ensure that his or her asthma action plan and medications are up to date.
- Make sure your child is aware of the asthma triggers and respiratory irritants that he or she is most sensitive to, and the best possible ways to avoid them.
- Encourage your child to wash his or her hands regularly to reduce the risk of contracting a respiratory virus.
- See to it that your child has at school a rescue inhaler as well as a spacer or holding chamber to use with the inhaler. Check to make sure that the inhaler is not close to expiring and has a sufficient number of doses, and that you and your child are familiar with the school’s policies regarding prescription medications.
- Talk to your primary care provider if your child’s asthma symptoms become noticeably worse or if he or she is using much more rescue medication than usual while at school.
- Check with your provider to see if you child should get a flu shot (typically available in October).
“It’s not really possible to protect kids who have asthma from all the potential irritants in play at this time of year,” Gower said. “But being aware of the conditions and taking a few precautions can definitely help them breathe easier.”