School’s Back – and the third week of September is Asthma Peak week!
For most school-aged children, September marks the beginning of the new school year. For kids, returning to the classroom is a time for learning, making friends and play.
However, for parents of children with asthma, the arrival of a new school year may bring a sense of dread. Why?
Because asthma flareups increase markedly in the first month or 2 of school, typically peaking around the 3rd week of September through early October. Hospital admissions for asthma throughout North America also ramp up. It is known that increased contact with other children is a contributing factor - face it, upper respiratory infections run rampant in classrooms. And for those kids with asthma, viral URI’s are potent triggers. More than 60% of kids landing in emergency rooms with asthma have rhinovirus - the virus responsible for the common cold.
In addition, for those kids with ragweed pollen sensitivity, the high levels present nationwide in September also can trigger asthma in some kids.
As the weather cools and windows close in classrooms, dust mites, molds and animal dander make their way into homes and classrooms and accumulate to levels that again, can trigger asthma.
So, if your child has asthma it is essential to know how to keep it under control as they return to school. Proper preparation to keep asthma well-controlled are as important as purchasing school supplies and new clothes. With the right planning kids can control their asthma – instead of having asthma control them.
The goal is to have your child’s asthma well controlled, so that your child should not experience any symptoms. That way, a child can function normally in the classroom, with physical activities, and also sleep comfortably and soundly.
So what’s a parent to do?
· Speak to your child’s school about their asthma policy and inhaler use - make sure your child can carry an asthma inhaler AND a spacer device at all times, and that one is in the nurses’ office or with the teacher.
· Develop a written Asthma Action Plan with your allergist or pediatrician and make sure the school has a copy of it
· Consult your child’s doctor NOW to find out which asthma medications are
appropriate for your child given the season, his/her physical activities and environmental exposures
· It’s especially important not to let down your guard - if your child is symptom free through the Fall and Winter and early spring, it’s because their medications and your environmental controls are working. Talk with your child’s doctor about taking medication vacations - and when that is advised
· Monitor your child’s symptoms daily, helping them to pay attention to them
· Identify triggers that make their asthma worse and teach your child how to best avoid them. If there are triggers within your home, do your best to eliminate them - no second hand smoke, controlling dust and animal dander, and living and eating as healthfully as possible.
· And of course, speak with your child about the importance of hand washing and not sharing food in order to avoid catching a cold.
Asthma is a condition that can be managed and controlled when we are educated with a strategy for living a healthy and symptom free life. With Asthma Peak Week rapidly approaching September 13, the time to start planning is now!