Another summer seemed to go by way too fast, and it’s that time of year again. Time for back-to-school and all that goes with it: stocking up on those annual school supplies, finding the latest fashion, and getting familiar with new class schedules and teachers. But, one thing we often forget about is getting our children’s asthma ready for back-to-school.
Fall is a tricky time for patients with asthma. Most have been used to having good asthma symptom control over the summer, but as I like to always tell my patients with asthma: “FALL IS COMING!”. Asthma attacks, emergency department visits and hospital admissions tend to peak in the fall season, due to a combination of factors.
Foremost, many asthma attacks are triggered by cold viruses. Unlike most of my patients, viruses can’t wait for school to begin! Viruses love the close, inside quarters that schools provide, and take advantage of this to spread amongst students and cause havoc in classrooms and homes. We tend to see cold viruses spread within the first 1-2 weeks of school, so there isn’t much time to prepare.
Environmental allergies are another big trigger for asthma attacks. That inevitable weather change, at least in the Midwest, leads to more allergens in the air and can lead to asthma attacks in sensitive individuals.
An increase in physical activity for some children, with recess, gym and extracurricular activities can trigger asthma attacks as well.
So what can you do to make sure you or your children’s asthma is ready for back-to-school?
- If a daily asthma medication has been prescribed by your physician, be sure you are taking it as directed. Remember, just because summer has been kind to your child’s asthma, FALL IS COMING!
- Ensure your child has an albuterol inhaler and spacer available at school and during all extracurricular activities. Don’t forget to get the required forms completed to allow this at your child’s school. Check with the school to find out what is needed! And remember, spacers are important for everyone—babies, teens, and adults need them to make sure the medication gets into the lungs.
- Teach your child to wash their hands frequently, and cover their mouths with their elbow when they cough or sneeze.
- Make sure that everyone in the house older than 6 months old gets their yearly flu vaccine.
- Eliminate any smoke exposure your children may have, especially in the home and car. Wear smoking jackets when smoking outside, remove before coming back inside, and be sure to wash your hands. If you are interested in quitting, discuss this with your or your child’s healthcare provider.
- If your child has not seen their asthma care provider in the last 6 months, be sure to schedule a preventative appointment, a “checkup” for their asthma. These are recommended twice a year by national asthma guidelines and visits like these have been shown to improve asthma control and allow our children to be at their best year-round!
- If your child is having asthma symptoms, be sure to call your asthma care provider early. Most asthma attacks can be treated by your primary care provider if addressed before symptoms get too severe.
Fall can be a difficult time for patients with asthma, but with some planning, we can minimize the effects of this season. Make back-to-school asthma care a routine part of your child’s healthcare!
Dr. Dane Snyder is a Pediatrician in Central Ohio. He has years of practice in primary care and asthma medicine.