Did you know that asthma attacks spike in the month of September? There are lots of reasons for this including fall allergies, viral exposure when kids go back to school and late season forest fires. In addition, many children are able to stop their controller medication (that everyday inhaled steroid) in the summer because of the decreased risk of viruses. After stopping for the summer it’s hard to remember to start again so kids are left unprotected at the start of school.
What can parents of asthmatics do to make the start of school safer and symptom-free? First, if you have been told to stop any medicine for the summer, restart it early. Often these are medicines like Flovent, Qvar, Advair and Pulmicort. Do not start or stop asthma medicines unless directed by your child’s primary care provider.
Make sure you have refills for all of your child’s medicines. Asthmatics should be seen by their doctors every six months, so back-to-school time is a good chance to have your child seen and request any refills. Call now as this is a busy time with everyone doing back to school physicals.
Most schools require signed paperwork to allow your child to have asthma medicines with them at school. Update these now as well, and if you have an “asthma action plan,” give a copy to your school. Send fresh rescue medicines (albuterol) to school with your child. Every inhaler needs to be given with a spacer (a device to improve medication delivery) , that includes inhalers for teens and adults. Inhalers were reformulated to take out the CFC’s and now the gas is much heavier and harder to deliver. Spacers trap the medicine and allow the full dose to be given. I recommend having one at home and school.
Avoid allergens that might trigger asthma symptoms by keeping windows shut at night, showering children at night to remove pollen, and wiping off pets each night to remove any collected pollen. Also, in general, a child with asthma should have a pet-free room. You don’t have to get rid of the beloved family pet, but Fido and your child should not be sharing the same pillow!
Remind kids to wash their hands frequently to help stop the spread of viruses between all their BFFs. (I know easier said than done.) Try the travel size hand sanitizer with cool carrying cases and attach to backpacks.
Finally remember flu shots are usually ready by October. Influenza can be very hard on asthmatics, even deadly. Please vaccinate everyone in the family every year.