Photo of classroom with children at their deskIf the past predicts the future, then September is a challenging month for children with asthma. Clinical studies show what parents have known all along: Asthma flares and hospitalizations tend to spike in the first few weeks that children are back at school.

It’s easy to understand when you look at what children face returning to their classrooms: fall ragweed pollen and mold; exposures to respiratory illnesses, usually the common cold; and indoor allergens such as mold, chalk dust and dander from school pets.

Preparation is the key to keeping your child healthy. Schedule wellness doctor appointments before school begins or early in the school year and review your child’s Asthma Action Plan, an individualized plan of prevention and treatment that lays out what to do if symptoms arise. Many schools require it be kept on file.

More topics to discuss:

  • Discuss allergens and irritants that set off symptoms and how to reduce exposures that touch off asthma flares. Uncertain about triggers? Ask for a referral to an allergist for testing.
  • Review inhaler technique with your child. Ask about using a valved holding chamber – a handheld device that attaches to the inhaler and captures and directs the medication to the airways.
  • Make sure your child stays on medication schedule throughout the year, including taking daily anti-inflammatory medications as prescribed. Note the expiration dates of medications and refill prescriptions as necessary.
  • Involve children in the conversation, helping them understand when, why and how to take medications and other ways to keep asthma under control.

Immune System Smarts

Healthy lifestyle choices and basic hygiene can go a long way toward boosting your child’s immune system and preventing the spread of germs at school year-round. Here are some tips to boost the immune system:

  • Make sure all members of your family get the annual flu shot. It’s recommended for everyone ages 6 months and older and those diagnosed with chronic disease, including asthma.
  • Reduce daily stress. Stress can impact our ability to fight illness. Establishing daily routines and expectations can make the day less stressful. Yoga, meditation and listening to music can help. Having a close friend can help buffer effects of stress.
  • Exercise every day. Regular, moderate exercise – 30 minutes five times a week for adults and 60 minutes every day for children – is associated with a greater sense of well-being and promotes cardiovascular fitness.
  • Eat a healthy diet. A balanced diet high in fruits, vegetables and whole grains and low in saturated fats contributes to good health and supports a healthy immune system.
  • Get enough sleep. People who don’t sleep enough have less ability to fend off colds, flu and other illnesses. Sleep needs vary individually and by age, but on average adults need 7-9 hours of sleep a night and school-age children need 9-11 hours of sleep.
  • Establish good personal hygiene. Wash hands regularly and cover your cough/sneezes with your elbow. These simple actions keep germs from spreading and protect you and those around you.