As excitement for the new school year begins, it's essential that parents consider the impact returning to school will have on children with asthma. Although many students and parents are keen to return to school, others may dread the return.
Research in Australia has shown that the risk of asthma-related hospitalizations peaks between two and four weeks after the first day of school, showcasing a solid correlation between the increase of hospital admissions for asthma in children and returning to school after a long summer holiday.
The phenomenon dubbed by many as back-to-school asthma attacks or back-to-school asthma spikes is also seen in the United States, United Kingdom and Canada.
Causes of the back-to-school asthma spike
The causes for the spike are not fully understood, but many professionals believe it is related to a combination of different environmental, behavioural and biological factors. Possible contributing factors to the rise in asthma cases during this time include
- Exposure to allergens and irritants
- Stress and anxiety
- Changes in children’s routines
- Seasonal allergies
- Lack of access to healthcare
Symptoms to look out for
Although asthma attack symptoms are well known among parents and children alike, do be on the lookout if your child is experiencing the following symptoms during this sensitive back-to-school asthma period:
- Chest tightness
- Shortness of breath
- Irregular breathing patterns
- Trouble breathing
- Feeling tired from the effort of breathing
- Difficulty in breathing caused by coughing or shortness of breath
If you notice your child exhibiting any of these symptoms, immediately turn to your asthma treatment kit or seek medical attention.
Partners in prevention
Preventing an asthma attack during this crucial period will be made easier with support from both parents and teachers. The steps needed for parents to prevent further asthma attacks at school include the following:
- Ensuring teachers and the school knows of your child’s condition
- Avoiding asthma triggers
- Having a written asthma action plan
- Keeping medications in children’s backpacks
- Practising good hygiene
- Encouraging physical activity
- Monitor symptoms
Do note that every child is unique and that the strategies or action plans may vary from one child to the next. Do maintain a healthy rapport with healthcare providers and other caregivers to meet your child's individual needs.
Australia’s National Asthma Council has also prepared a checklist promoting a symptom-free start to the school year:
- Schedule asthma examinations with your health provider
- Share a copy of your written action plan with the school staff
- Ensure your child knows to tell school staff if an asthma episode is on the way
- Check to know that your child can use their inhaler by themselves
- Get the seasonal flu shot
Treatment options for asthma vary depending on the severity of each individual. However, with some simple lifestyle changes, the occurrence and severity of asthma attacks can be severely reduced.
Regularly engaging in physical activities or sports can help beat asthma symptoms by improving lung function and health. On top of improved lung function, partaking in physical activity will likely result in increased strength, a more robust immune function, better breathing and reduced stress.
Eating a healthy diet
Inflammation in the body is a contributory factor to asthma attacks. By consuming a healthy diet consisting of anti-inflammatory foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats can help reduce inflammation in the body.
Maintaining a healthy weight
If you or a loved one is overweight, losing even a little bit of weight could make a difference in asthma, as excess body weight can increase the amount of pressure on the lungs, making breathing more difficult.
Stress, anxiety and other strong emotions are known to trigger allergy symptoms, as having feelings of strong emotions can cause breathing patterns to change even in individuals that don’t have asthma.
Research by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America has shown that stress can trigger the release of hormones that can cause airways to narrow or inflame. Stress reduction can be made by controlling breathing, improving sleep, and improving overall health by following the steps above.
Improving indoor air quality
Through the use of an air purifier, airborne indoor allergens, including pet dander, viruses, bacteria, volatile organic compounds and more, will be removed from the air and be replaced with cleaner, purified air for better breathing all year round. Controlling humidity through a dehumidifier will reduce allergens such as dust mites and mould spores, thus improving indoor air quality.
Download the NAC's essential checklist for kids with asthma returning to school to reduce your worries and keep your children safe throughout the schooling year and beyond.
Ionmax offers a wide range of air purifiers equipped with multiple-stage filtration systems to thoroughly cleanse your air of unwanted allergens. Ionmax dehumidifiers are Sensitive Choice approved for having potential benefits to asthma patients and easing asthma symptoms.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is for general reference only. Please seek advice from professionals according to your needs.