Watch above: Dr. Samir Gupta offered five tips to help avoid a September asthma flare.
TORONTO – During the third week of September, just as kids get back into the routine of school, the number of children with asthma who are taken to hospital emergency rooms spikes, according to the Lung Association.
Roughly 16 per cent of Canadian children under the age of 12 have asthma, a common condition which can make breathing incredibly difficult when it flares up.
Asthma symptoms can often be triggered by allergens – like mold, dust, pets or ragweed – and irritants like cold air, smoke or air pollution.
While various allergens are present all year round, many kids get sick when they head back to school in September because viral infections cause asthma symptoms to flare, Global News medical contributor Dr. Samir Gupta said.
Several studies support the theory that viral infections are the most common cause for the spike in asthma flares and emergency room visits each September.
But infections aren’t the only cause for the spike in emergency room visits Gupta said.
“These children were less likely to be on their asthma medications and parents tend not to fill prescriptions for controller asthma medications in the summer months,” he said.
There are also allergens in the school environment, and the fall ragweed season.
Dr. Gupta offered five things to help avoid a September asthma flare
1. Know and avoid your allergens
Parents should have their kids tested so that they can avoid the things they are allergic to. Allergens like cat hair are brought to the school on children’s clothing, and schools have higher mold levels.
2. Treat the allergies
Gupta suggested that poorly controlled allergy symptoms can trigger asthma attacks, so parents should be proactive in treating their children’s allergies with anti-histamines, nasal steroids, or allergy shots or pills.
3. If you’re sick, stay home
Viruses are the major cause of the September spike, and they are spread through close contact at school. So if you’re child is sick, keep them home from school.
4. Wash your hands
It’s simple but effective at preventing the spread of viruses. Gupta suggests that parents take time to educate their children about the importance of washing their hands.
5. Keep children on medications throughout the summer
Gupta says that many of his patients tend to forget their asthma medications in the summer because symptoms generally improve during the summer months.
“Asthma is a chronic disease and that means that although the symptoms may wax and wane, the airway inflammation actually doesn’t go away,” he said. “You need to keep your kids on their controller asthma medications throughout the summer months to protect them come September.”
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