Asthma and allergies don’t take a hiatus during the summer. So why do some asthma patients? Studies show that patients who reduce or stop taking their daily anti-inflammatory medications during summer months – without consulting their doctor – are at greater risk of more serious asthma symptoms in the fall.

For schoolchildren, staying on medication schedule is one of the best ways to avoid the September Asthma Epidemic, the annual spike in asthma flares and asthma-related hospitalizations among kids. Health care professionals can even predict the point it starts: shortly after Labor Day.

Common asthma triggers such as ragweed and mold spores soar at this time of year. When the school year begins, children with asthma are exposed to more respiratory illnesses.

Staying on medication schedule – as prescribed by your doctor – is a critical part of an Asthma Action Plan, which gives specific, individualized instructions for managing and treating asthma.

New practice parameters published in The Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology provide evidence-based recommendations for health care providers about using Asthma Action Plans to steer patients away from worsening asthma symptoms and toward normal breathing.

A typical Asthma Action Plan, according to the parameters, includes written instructions regarding treatment in the green zone (asthma is doing well), the yellow zone (asthma is worsening and intervention is needed) and the red zone (asthma requires urgent emergency care). Responding to symptoms when in the yellow zone can help prevent deterioration to the red zone.

According to the parameters, the yellow zone is defined as:

  • An increase in asthma symptoms.

  • An increase in use of quick-relief medications.

  • A peak flow rate (PEFR) decrease of at least 15 percent or a PEFR lower than 80 percent of personal best.

  • The presence or increase in nocturnal asthma symptoms.

Recommended treatments for those within the yellow zone should be outlined in the Asthma Action Plan, as they will differ for each individual patient.

The yellow zone intervention “should provide quick relief of symptoms, prevent progression to the red zone, be safe enough to initiate at home, be convenient and practical for self-administration, be portable so that it is always available, and be cost effective,” according to the guidelines.