School and Asthma . . . Both are Back in Session
To me, as a mother of two young girls, September signals the end of summer and the beginning of school. But as a family medicine physician practicing direct primary care, it also signals an increased likelihood of seeing asthma exacerbations. When children return to school, they see old friends and often make new ones. But as they play and learn together, children who have asthma may be vulnerable to having an asthma attack. When the teacher puts tissues, hand sanitizer, and wipes on the school supply list, it’s for a good reason: kids are likely to spread germs when they don’t wash their hands and cover their mouths when they cough or sneeze. While for most children germs may lead simply to cold symptoms, for those who suffer from asthma, germs may lead to asthma attacks. ER visits for asthma increase significantly for both children and adults in September. This is partly due to higher pollen and other allergen counts, but also to the increased prevalence of viral infections at this time of year. Even if your child doesn’t have asthma, if a parent or a sibling does, spreading viruses may cause the asthmatic family member to have more asthma symptoms.
For this reason, I recommend that all patients with asthma, both children and adults, revisit their asthma action plan with their doctor before school begins. This plan should outline what to do each day to treat your asthma, how to monitor your symptoms, and what to do if they get worse. Action plans can be found on most school district websites and a copy should be given to the school. I encourage patients to know their triggers and to try to avoid them, if possible. Some of the most common triggers include: smoke, dust mites, outdoor air pollution, pets, mold, and infections like the flu. If a patient is on a long-term asthma control medicine and stopped using it during the summer, I encourage them to restart it prior to going back to school so they can prevent symptoms before they start, or at least lessen their severity. Patients and parents should make sure that none of their asthma medications have expired and have at least one refill available. I also recommend that everyone wash their hands frequently, avoid touching their mouth and nose, and cough and sneeze into a tissue or into their sleeve rather than into their hands.
ImagineMD encourages all of its patients with asthma to schedule an appointment soon to update their asthma action plan and to get a flu shot. Flu shots save lives.
Asthma is the most common reason children miss school and parents miss work (in caring for their children with asthma), but if we can keep everyone with asthma healthy, it means more time in school learning and more time in the office working.