Peak Season for Children with Asthma
A spike in asthma symptoms and flare-ups among children who have asthma is expected to start in late August and continue through the end of September, according to a review of past claims data and public health records by Univera Healthcare.
“An increase in the number of children’s asthma-related medical visits, asthma attacks and hospitalizations occurs each year at this time as kids return to school from summer break,” said Richard Vienne, D.O., Univera Healthcare vice president and chief medical officer. “The September peak is caused, in part, by the increase in respiratory infections among kids who are exposed to more germs once they return to school.”
Nearly 15 percent of Western New York children younger than age 18 have asthma. That figure is higher than the 13 percent average for upstate New York children younger than age 18.
Univera’s review of upstate New York claims data from January 2014 to December 2016 reveals that children between the ages of 0 and 4 experience more asthma-related emergency room visits at this time of year (17.7 per 1,000) than children age 15 to age 17 (6.2 visits per 1,000).
Gale Burstein, M.D., MPH, Erie County Commissioner of Health, urges parents of children with asthma to anticipate this annual asthma flare up spike. “Now is the time for parents to ensure that children prescribed asthma controller medication are using it as directed and that asthma rescue medications are available at both home and school. Consult with your pediatrician to develop or update your child’s asthma action or management plan. Asthma action plans indicate a child’s daily treatment, including which medicines to take and when to take them. It also explains how to identify when asthma symptoms are severe enough to contact the child’s pediatrician or to take him/her to an urgent care or emergency department.” Burstein also notes that all adults and schools who care for a child with asthma should have a copy of the child’s asthma action plan and understand their responsibilities regarding the child’s care.
Asthma is one of the most common long-term diseases of children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It causes wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness, and coughing at night or early in the morning. If you have asthma, you have it all the time, but actual “asthma attacks” occur only when something bothers the lungs. During an attack, airways become swollen and inflamed. The muscles around the airways contract and the airways produce extra mucus, causing breathing (bronchial) tubes to narrow.
The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology notes that some sufferers liken an asthma attack to a feeling of drowning, because the narrow air passages make it extremely difficult to breathe. Mild episodes may last only a few minutes; more severe episodes can last from hours to days, and become a life-threatening emergency.
The common cold is one of the most frequent triggers for asthma attacks in very young children. Asthma triggers in late August and September also include the change from a relaxed, summer schedule to the structure of the school day and the impact it can have on medication schedules. In addition, late summer and early fall is the peak time of year for molds and pollen, which can affect children living with asthma.
Six steps to controlling your child’s asthma:
- Check in regularly with your child’s doctor to make sure that any prescribed asthma medication is working and that you have medications and supplies for home and school. Request a physician’s note if your child will need medications at school.
- Make sure your child takes all asthma medications as directed.
- Alert school staff regarding your child’s asthma, including details about your child’s asthma triggers and signs of an asthma attack.
- Empower your child by teaching him/her about asthma, including how to notice triggers and warning signs.
- Reduce asthma triggers at home by washing bedding with hot water once a week and using allergy-proof covers on mattresses and pillows.
- Prevent the spread of germs by encouraging proper hand-washing by the entire family, and making sure that every family member age 6 months and older receives a yearly flu shot.
A Univera Healthcare poster, “Breathe Easy: 6 Steps for Controlling Your Child’s Asthma,” is available free for download at https://tinyurl.com/y8rfokmr. Find additional information on asthma at HealthyChildren.org and www.lung.org.