Dealing with the September Asthma Peak

Posted on August 28, 2017 by kerri

With Fall brings a different set of challenges for many people with asthma and allergies. Among people with asthma, children are typically hardest hit by the effect of Fall on their asthma, an effect that may be most-pronounced around the third week in September. The September Asthma Peak is a researched health “phenomenon”, where higher-than-average rates of asthma related emergency department visits are made by patients, specifically children. The September Peak has declined in recent years, however, research still indicates that the Peak is still prevalent in the Fall, although less significantly than a decade ago. [1]

What causes the September Asthma Peak?

The historical increase in asthma symptoms and related emergency visits and hospitalizations among people with asthma in September tends to be attributed to a few main causes, namely Fall allergies and increased incidence of colds and flus.

As well, many children discontinue their asthma control medicines (inhaled corticosteroids which reduce lung inflammation in people with asthma) in the Summer, as they are often most needed to decrease symptoms associated with allergens present in Spring, as well as those in the school environment, perhaps to deal with cold air induced and in Winter, and to deal with symptoms associated with viral respiratory illnesses most often contracted at school. The break from asthma meds often means that children are not started up again on asthma meds early enough before school re-starts, to provide full benefit when they are re-introduced to the school environment and associated triggers that come with it—allergens, perfumes, cleaning supplies, chalk dust, and infection, to name a few. When these triggers are re-introduced, children may have more severe asthma symptoms in response without the added benefit of their regular inhaled steroid regime.

A “perfect storm” of weather changes, med changes, and viruses is thought to contribute to the September Asthma Peak.

Preventing the Peak

The good news is, there are ways to prevent severe symptoms from ruining the Fall season. Serious asthma attacks are not always preventable, however, you can give it your best shot! Consider starting up inhaled steroids if you’ve stopped for summer a few weeks before the school year starts—discuss with your child’s doctor when the optimal time will be for your child. If children have allergies, starting on an antihistamine may help to alleviate some symptoms that can aggravate asthma—speak with your doctor about this as well, and if your child needs to avoid outdoor physical activity in the fall if they have allergies, as this can cause more triggers to be inhaled.

Finally, infection prevention is critical. Ensure children wash their hands regularly, keep them home when they are sick, and follow an asthma action plan for adjusting medications when children first show signs that their asthma may be worsening or that they are catching a cold or virus. As well, ensure children always have access to their rescue inhalers at school. If asthma control is deteriorating, ensure you call your or your child’s doctor for instructions, and always seek medical attention sooner than later—err on the side of caution, always!

Children with asthma should also always wear medical ID jewelry, such as an asthma necklace or asthma medical alert bracelet, and keep their rescue inhaler with them at all times, such as in a pocket or backpack. If inhalers are stored in a backpack, consider purchasing a medical ID keychain with your child’s name, asthma, and “inhaler inside” to ensure those around them know where to find it if needed.

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