Studies show some people with asthma tend to skip their daily preventive asthma medication during the summer. Why? They may feel fewer symptoms. Or they may not be worried about exposure to as many asthma triggers. We turned to Jeremy Katcher, MD, and asked why skipping asthma medication is a mistake.
Q: Why is it so important that people with asthma, especially schoolchildren, keep taking their daily preventive asthma medication in summer?
Jeremy Katcher, MD: Asthma is an inflammatory condition of the airways. When inflammation gets too severe, or it occurs with a trigger, then it causes airway muscles to spasm and narrow. The narrowing causes restriction of airflow in the airways.
You want to keep the inflammation as minimal as possible at all times. Children who are returning to school are more likely to get exposed to upper respiratory infections, such as the common cold or the flu. Upper respiratory infections are the most common asthma trigger among schoolchildren in September. This often leads to a spike in asthma flares – called the September Asthma Peak.
It’s critical that people with asthma continue taking their daily medication as prescribed to prevent inflammation. Controlling inflammation will help reduce the likelihood of an asthma flare once a trigger is encountered in the fall.
Q: What are some practical tips to help children and teens stay on medication schedule?
Dr. Katcher: Summertime is a time when schedules are not as rigid. My recommendation is to try to preserve routines as much as possible.
Associate taking your daily asthma medications with something you do every day, regardless of the time of year. I recommend keeping your inhaler by your toothbrush as a reminder to take it daily (or twice daily) before brushing your teeth daily.
If your child is older and has a smartphone, set an alarm on it as a reminder to use the asthma medication each day.
Also, there are apps on the smartphone that are interactive with the inhaler. This is another way to help remind an older child or adolescent to use the asthma medication consistently.
Also see 10 Ways to Keep Children with Asthma Healthy During the September Asthma Peak for more information and resources.
Jeremy Katcher, MD, FACAAI, is a board-certified allergist and immunologist with Gateway Asthma and Allergy Relief, a division of Esse Health, in St. Louis. Dr. Katcher went to medical school at the University of Missouri – Columbia School of Medicine. He is a member of the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI).
Have a medical question? Email [email protected] or write to Ask the Allergist, Allergy & Asthma Network, 8229 Boone Blvd., Suite 260, Vienna, VA 22182.