Asthma peak week: What parents should know

There is a week every September when asthma attacks, asthma episodes and hospitalizations from asthma are at their highest. What do families need to know?

There is a week every September when asthma attacks, asthma episodes and hospitalizations from asthma are at their highest. Known as “asthma peak week” by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, the third week of September provides a perfect storm of asthma triggers being in abundance, such as ragweed pollen, mold, respiratory infections and dust. What can parents do to help during asthma peak week?

What is asthma peak week?

The third week of September is one of the worst for allergies because ragweed pollen, dust mites and mold counts are often at their highest during this time, which coincides with the start of the school year as well as the beginning of cold and flu season. With all of these happening at the same time, it can hard for children and families who experience asthma.

What can families do about asthma peak week?

Knowing that this happens yearly can help families plan and be prepared, as well as take extra precautions if necessary. Families with children with asthma can take some steps to limit the effects of peak week, and asthma in general, including:

  • Make sure your child’s asthma action plan is up to date — and close by. Make sure that your child has their well-child visit with their pediatrician and appointments with their pediatric pulmonologist/asthma specialist to make sure their asthma action plan is up to date, along with any other medical care protocols. Asthma action plans are key to help keep asthma in check during peak week and the rest of the year.
  • Check expirations on inhalers and medicines. Your child may not need to use a rescue inhaler often, but if it’s part of your child’s asthma action plan, it’s important to keep tabs on these medicines. You can do so by making a monthly habit of checking your child’s inhalers, indicating how much is left in the container as well as its expiration.
  • Practice good habits to prevent illness. Respiratory infections such as colds and flu can be difficult for people with asthma. Keeping up with habits that can help prevent you and others from getting sick is important. Washing your hands often; using hand sanitizer; avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth; wearing a mask if you’re in public; and getting a yearly flu shot are all actions families can take to stay healthy during cold and flu season.
  • Avoid asthma triggers. As weather begins to change, mold, dust mites and ragweed pollen are just some of the triggers that can be in the air. While we can’t control the allergen levels in the air outside, we can try to limit exposure to allergens in the home. Washing bed sheets, sweeping and vacuuming are all actions that can help keep allergens to a minimum at home. Other things families can do include:
    • Take your shoes off before entering your home and change into new clothes when you get home for the day.
    • Keep doors and windows closed when allergens are at high levels.
    • Use air filters that are asthma and allergy friendly.
    • Shower before going to sleep.

“Asthma peak week is not something that families should fear,” said Ronald L. Morton, M.D., pediatric pulmonologist with Norton Children’s Pulmonology, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine. “Knowing this time of year can be difficult for children with asthma can help families be mindful and take precautions that they’re likely already taking.”