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Back to School Homework: Prepare for the September Asthma Peak

As the new school year has begun, parents must be vigilant in preparing for the annual ‘September Asthma Peak,’ safeguarding their children’s health.

With children returning to the classroom this month, it’s an important reminder that parents should be taking the appropriate steps to prepare for the ‘September Asthma Peak’ — the annual peak in asthma flare-ups which sends thousands of school children and their family members to emergency departments in the weeks after school begins. 

In Canada, approximately 20 per cent to 25 per cent of children’s hospital admissions for asthma occur in September.

“As our children get set to return to the classroom, with the excitement and anticipation of a new school year, being prepared will increase the likelihood of a safe and symptom-free return to school and ultimately prevent trips to the emergency room.” says Jeff Beach, President and CEO of Asthma Canada.

September Peak is mostly attributed to the increased exposure children have to viral infections that comes with the return to school. Viruses are one of the significant triggers for asthma symptoms in children, with more than 60 per cent of those admitted to emergency rooms having rhinovirus (the common cold). For kids with asthma, especially uncontrolled asthma, a simple cold can lead to dangerous symptoms and unscheduled visits to the doctor and emergency room.

 Other possible causes for September flare-ups include: not taking prescribed controller medication during the summer vacation; the stress of returning to school; allergic triggers at school, such as mould, dust and animal dander on classmates’ clothes; and more pollution as school buses and commuters return in full force after the holidays.

 90 per cent of hospital and emergency room visits by asthma patients are avoidable with good asthma control.

 However, it is possible to avoid the September Peak. Parents of kids with asthma should speak to their doctor about completing an Asthma Action Plan for their kids. The plan is individually created for each asthma patient and is proven to help better manage a child’s asthma.

Help protect your child from the September Peak by making sure they have good asthma control all year-round:

  • Develop a personalized  Children’s Action Plan in conjunction with your child’s healthcare provider. Share a copy of your child’s Asthma Action Plan with school officials and teachers.
  • Help your child understand their asthma triggers and teach them how to avoid them.
  • Make sure your child takes their asthma-prevention medication as prescribed, even when they are symptom-free.
  • Make sure your child knows how to use their puffer by themselves (if old enough), or when to ask an adult for help. It is advisable to refresh inhaler techniques with the help of a healthcare provider. Children should also be using a valved-holding chamber (spacer) with metered-dose inhalers.
  • Ask school officials about rules for carrying asthma medications and ensure your child is able to carry their medications on hand at all times.
  • Teach your child proper hand washing techniques and stress the importance of frequent hand-washing to avoid catching a cold.
  • Keep your child at home if they are sick.
  • Make sure your child and other family members get the seasonal flu shot every year. It is important to ensure all immunizations are up-to-date.
  • Schedule regular asthma check-ups to properly control your child’s asthma.
  • Asthma Canada offers a number of resources to help you prepare your children for a safe and healthy return to school. They also offer an Asthma & Allergy HelpLine staffed by knowledgeable and friendly Certified Respiratory Educators (CRE) who would be happy to speak to you and your children to provide advice and tips. 

Call 1-866-787-4050 or email at [email protected] to get in touch with a CRE or visit asthma.ca to learn more.

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