More than 3.8 million Canadians suffer from asthma, an inflammatory condition of the airways that causes wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath. 22% of those diagnosed are children under fourteen. The consequences of asthma can be life-altering. Even more alarming is that 9 in 10 Canadians with asthma don’t have it under control.
Asthma patients, especially children, face additional challenges during the summer. More than 80% of children in Canada are affected by common summer allergens like pollen, which can trigger their asthma. Higher levels of air pollution can also affect the lungs to make allergic reactions stronger, taking an even greater toll on patients.
Chris Haromy is a certified respiratory educator at the Ontario Lung Association. He shares five tips to keep your family healthy during the asthma and allergy season:
1. Keep your home dry
One of the biggest allergens and asthma triggers is household mold, which tends to develop in humid conditions. To keep mold in check, use a dehumidifier and central air conditioning with a proper filter, and don’t forget to clean both regularly.
2. Maintain proper inhaler technique
“Most asthma patients can be treated with inhalers, but they must be used properly to be effective,” Haromy says. The most common inhaler, a metered dose inhaler (MDI), delivers a pre-measured amount of medication with a short burst. However, incorrect use of an MDI — which is likely among children — can result in the medication being trapped in the mouth before reaching the lungs. Haromy recommends using a valved-holding chamber to deliver the right dose of medication to the right place in your child’s lungs.
3. Develop an asthma action plan
An asthma action plan is a written plan you can develop with your child’s doctor. “The purpose is to reduce or eliminate the potential for asthma flare-ups and hospital visits,” explains Haromy. The customized plan typically includes information on medicines, recognizing when symptoms get worse, and what to do in an emergency situation.
4. Monitor air pollution levels
Air pollution tends to rise during summer months. Frequently monitor the current and forecasted Air Quality Health Index (AQHI), which reports the level of ozone and various other air pollutants. “Your child’s symptoms can worsen even if air pollution is moderate,” says Haromy. “But if your child’s asthma is severe, high AQHI levels can be dangerous.”
5. Watch for pollen
Pollen is another seasonal irritant that can cause an asthmatic reaction. “Take advantage of online allergy-tracking tools, which show current and forecasted tree pollen, grass pollen, and ragweed pollen levels,” suggests Haromy.
During the summer months, it’s especially important to be prepared in case of an asthma attack. With changing schedules, remembering to give your child their controller medication daily can be a challenge too. Ensure your child’s controller use is part of their daily summer routine. Be sure to follow these five steps to make sure your child enjoys the summer safely.