If the past predicts the future, then September is sure to be a challenging month for children with asthma. Clinical studies show what parents have known all along: Asthma flares requiring a hospital or ER visit start to spike in early-to-mid September and decline in mid-October.
Approximately 25% of all children’s asthma hospitalizations occur in September. Doctors even identified the third week of September as the peak week for hospitalizations and ER visits.
Why Does the September Asthma Peak Happen?
- Return to school means exposure to multiple allergens (indoor mold, animal dander) and respiratory irritants (air pollutants from idling school buses)
- High levels of ragweed and mold allergens in outside air
- Greater exposure to cold germs and viruses, including the flu
- Irregular medication use from summer months – when children don’t follow their asthma medication schedule in summer, they’re more at risk for asthma flares in September when they’re exposed to more allergens and triggers
- Anxiety and stress associated with the new school year
Do you or your teenage child (13 or older) have asthma? We are recruiting patients for the PRECISION asthma study. By participating in the study, you’ll attend 6 virtual asthma coaching sessions for free and help advance asthma care.
What are ways to keep a child healthy during the September Asthma Peak?
- Schedule an asthma checkup with your child’s doctor before the school year begins.
- Make sure all asthma medications are refilled prior to start of school year.
- Take long-acting asthma medications as prescribed by your child’s doctor.
- Keep or carry medications at school, particularly a quick-relief inhaler.
- Keep a peak flow meter, a device that signals brewing lung problems.
- Encourage frequent handwashing to reduce risk of catching a cold or a virus.
- Identify and avoid environmental triggers; if pollen is a problem, talk with teachers about staying inside from outdoor activities.
- Get the flu vaccine.
- Follow the Asthma Action Plan and provide one to the school nurse.
- Maintain good asthma control throughout the entire year, even if symptoms are well controlled during summer.
What are some ways to get a child involved in self-managing asthma to avoid flares?
Involve children in the conversation about asthma management. Help them understand when, why and how to take medications and other ways to keep asthma under control. Review their inhaler technique periodically – ask your doctor about using a valved holding chamber, a handheld device that attaches to the inhaler and directs the medicine to the airways.
Is there anything else to do to help a child avoid catching colds, flu and other viruses?
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.
Download or share our Asthma Peak Infographic: