September is by far the worst month of the year for pediatric asthma flare-ups, and Island Health says one of the best ways to avoid them is by making sure your child’s medication is filled and up-to-date. Photo by Ana Maria Dacol/Creative Commons

Kelowna pharmacists warn of ‘September asthma peak’

First month of back-to-school period brings dramatic increases in hospitalizations

According to Asthma Canada, Canadian researchers see a large spike in hospitalizations for children with asthma during the September back-to-school period. In fact, this period is now referred to as the ‘September Asthma Peak’.

“Children with asthma face increased exposure to all kinds of triggers, from viral infections to allergens like dust mites, mould and even seasonal allergens like ragweed when they head back to school,” said Zach Stevens, pharmacist with London Drugs.

Colds are the most frequent asthma triggers in young children, causing up to 85 per cent of exacerbations.

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“Even though “flu season” is commonly known as a winter phenomenon, contagious viral infections are spread and shared just as much in September in schools. It might sound obvious, but making sure your child is washing their hands correctly and frequently can really help,” said Stevens.

He says pharmacists sometimes recommend aids to help manage asthma in children. As an example, they may advise the use of a valved holding chamber which can help ensure your child is receiving a proper dosage. The chamber traps and holds the medication, giving the child time to inhale it entirely.

“We also recommend parents have a prescription for two inhalers, so that they are able to keep one at home and one at school. This way, the child doesn’t need to worry about remembering to take their inhaler with them to school each day, and risk forgetting it at home.”

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As parents prepare to send their kids back to school, pharmacists are recommending parents of children with asthma take additional precautions including:

Familiarize yourself & your child with how to identify and reduce triggers. Help your child understand their asthma triggers and help identify ways you can actively work to reduce the likelihood of an asthma attack at school.

Develop an asthma management/action plan. Ensure your child’s medications are listed on the plan. Emergency contact numbers and instructions should also be listed and available for caretakers like grandparents, babysitters and school staff. In the case of an emergency, it’s important you and your child also have a plan in place for how to respond.

Talk to school teachers, nurses and coaches. Ask for any required forms, details on school’s procedure for an asthma emergency, how to ensure immediate access to asthma medication, and discuss how to reduce your child’s triggers while at school. The school should also have the details of your asthma management/action plan, including emergency contact numbers and medication instructions. It’s also important to speak with coaches or physical education teachers about your child’s ability to participate in physical activities.

Manage allergies and exposure to influenza. Seasonal allergies and other allergens can trigger your child’s asthma symptoms. Be proactive and treat their allergies with the proper allergy medication. Your child, along with the rest of your household, should also receive an influenza vaccination to reduce their risk of developing flu symptoms, which can trigger their asthma. Children should also be reminded of the importance of handwashing and correct hand-washing techniques to prevent catching a colds.

Have your medication reviewed by your pharmacist. During your visit, have your child’s asthma medication reviewed and, if necessary, ask for a refresher on how to use the medication correctly. Pharmacists can remind children how to hold the inhaler and offer tips on improving inhalation technique.

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