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Back to school can cause problems for children with asthma

Sep 05, 2017

Closing in on Week 38 – the September Spike

Toronto (Sept 5, 2017) – Back to school means homework assignments, new teachers and seeing old friends, but for the one in five children in Ontario living with asthma, it can mean a visit to the emergency department (ED).

According to figures compiled by the Ontario Asthma Surveillance Information System (OASIS), the 38th week of the year continues to be the peak time for asthma attacks among young people. This phenomenon, known amongst health-care professionals as the “September Spike,” sends an increase in of school children and their families to EDs and doctors’ offices in the weeks after the start of the new school year.

Experts believe viruses, including the common cold, are the main cause of asthma flare-ups in September. When children go back to school, it’s back to close quarters with classmates – and the viruses they carry.

“It is important to identify contributing factors to asthma flare-ups in September and take steps to help prevent them,” says Carole Madeley, director of respiratory health programs, The Lung Association – Ontario.

“Other possible causes for September flare-ups include: not taking controller medication as prescribed during the summer vacation; the stress of returning to school; allergic triggers at school such as mould and dust; and more pollution as school buses and commuters return after the holidays.”

Parents of children with asthma need to be aware of ways in which they can help prevent a rush trip to the ED:

  • Learn how to manage your child’s asthma and teach your child about managing his or her asthma as well;
  • Avoid getting viral infections through regular and thorough hand washing;
  • Work to identify your child’s triggers and take steps to avoid them;
  • Ask your health-care provider for a written asthma action plan so that you or your child can recognize worsening signs of asthma and know how to get it under control;
  • See your health-care provider if your child’s action plan or medication is not keeping his or her asthma under control;
  • Be sure your child (age–appropriate) has their reliever inhaler with them at school or the school has easy access to it; and
  • All family members should get the seasonal flu shot as soon as it becomes available

Each school should identify which students have asthma and take the following steps:

  • Teachers should work with parents/guardians and students (if age-appropriate) in completing the Individual Student Asthma Management Plan (ISAMP), a form that should be kept on file at school that identifies students with asthma and provides guidance on how to manage it.
  • School staff should learn to recognize asthma symptoms and asthma attacks and know what to do when they occur.

For more information on how to keep your child’s asthma under control, call The Lung Association Lung Health Information Line at 1-888-344-LUNG (5864) and speak to a certified respiratory educator.

About The Lung Association – Ontario                                                       

Breathing. It’s what unites us. It’s what inspires us. And it’s what keeps us pushing ahead, whether it’s searching for cures to lung diseases, helping people to quit smoking and ensuring that children never start, or fighting for clean air.

The Lung Association is the leading organization working to promote lung health and prevent and manage lung disease.  We do this by funding vital research, pushing for improved treatments and better policies, and helping people manage their health.

Media Contact

Monica Kocsmaros, Director of Marketing and Communications
The Lung Association