Preparation is the key to staying healthy during the September Asthma Peak. Here are 10 things you should plan for in the days leading up to and during the month of September:
- Schedule an asthma checkup for all family members before September. Discuss your current asthma control at this checkup. Uncontrolled asthma will increase your risk of flare-ups heading into the fall.
- Review your Asthma Action Plan. This is a treatment plan you develop with your doctor that details what you should do if you develop asthma symptoms. If necessary, adapt the Asthma Action Plan if your exposure to asthma triggers is higher during the month of September. Update your child’s Asthma Action Plan and make sure the school nurse has a copy.
- Make sure all asthma medications are refilled leading up to the month of September – including before children return to school. Double check the expiration date on your quick-relief inhaler.
- Take controller inhalers as prescribed, including during the summer months. Studies show the lowest fill rate for asthma medications is in July. At doctor appointments, show how you use your inhaler to confirm you are using it correctly.
- Keep or carry medications at school and work, especially a quick-relief inhaler to treat sudden asthma attacks.
- Use a peak flow meter. This is a device that can signal brewing lung problems and alert you to a coming asthma attack.
- Identify and avoid asthma triggers, especially if you or your child has allergic asthma. If ragweed season is a problem, exercise indoors. For schoolchildren, talk with teachers about offering the option of staying inside during recess or gym class. Ask if the school can keep windows closed and keep pets out of classroom to avoid animal dander. Talk with the custodial staff to find out what cleaning chemicals are used in school buildings. It may be worth it to take these extra precautions.
- Get the flu and COVID-19 vaccines early to prevent infections and/or severe symptoms. Flu vaccines are usually available at pharmacies by late August.
- Encourage frequent handwashing to reduce the risk of catching a cold or a virus. Many schools and workplaces are providing hand sanitizers.
- If you have severe asthma that is not well controlled despite taking a daily controller medication, talk with an asthma specialist. It’s important to have good asthma control at all times of the year. New precision medications called biologics are available. These medications target the source of symptoms at the cell level rather than treat the symptoms themselves.
What are some ways to get involved in self-managing asthma to avoid flares?
It’s critical that people with asthma continue taking their daily controller inhaler as prescribed to prevent inflammation. Controlling inflammation will help reduce the likelihood of an asthma flare once a trigger is encountered in the fall.
Identify and reduce your asthma triggers and know when and how to use your inhalers. Work together with your doctor to determine what triggers your asthma. It may be helpful to take notes of what potential allergens and irritants you were exposed to prior to symptoms.
Doctors and pharmacists can review your inhaler technique with you to make sure you are getting the most medicine out of your inhaler. Ask your doctor about using a valved holding chamber or spacer. These are handheld devices that attach to the inhaler and trap the medicine so it goes directly into your lungs. They are especially helpful for children and older adults who may not have the ability to coordinate breath and activate a metered-dose inhaler.
It’s also important to make sure you have a strong immune system to fend off respiratory viruses that begin to increase in September.
What are some tips to boost your immune system?
Healthy lifestyle choices and basic hygiene can help boost your immune system or your child’s immune system. This can help prevent the spread of germs at home, school and work year-round. It’s also an important part of reducing the risk of an asthma attack.
Make sure all family members get the flu And COVID-19 vaccines before school starts.
The flu vaccine is recommended for everyone ages 6 months and older. It’s especially important for children, people with chronic diseases such as asthma, and older adults. The COVID-19 vaccine is also recommended to help fend off the coronavirus and reduce the risk of severe illness.
Reduce daily stress.
Stress can impact our ability to fight illness. Develop daily routines to make your day less stressful. Practicing yoga or meditation and listening to music can help. Talk with a close friend to help relieve stress.
Exercise every day.
Regular, moderate exercise can keep your lungs healthy. This can include 30 minutes of exercise five times a week for adults, and 60 minutes of exercise every day for children. Daily physical activity also helps heart health and leads to a greater sense of well-being.
Eat a healthy diet.
Eat a balanced diet high in fruits, vegetables and whole grains and low in saturated fats. This can contribute to good health and support a healthy immune system. It’s also important to stay hydrated, especially if it’s warm outside. Keep a bottle of water close by during the day.
Get enough sleep.
People who don’t get enough sleep have less ability to fend off colds, flu and other illnesses. Sleep needs vary for each person and by age, but on average adults need 7-9 hours of sleep a night, and school-age children need 9-11 hours of sleep.
Establish good personal hygiene.
Wash hands often and cover your cough/sneezes with your elbow. These simple actions keep germs from spreading and can protect you and those around you.