Asthma flare-ups in children peak in the fall, shortly after most kids go back to school. And these aren’t always just minor flare-ups: More children are hospitalized for asthma in September than at any other time.
Here at Riviera Allergy in Redondo Beach, California, we see the problem every fall. We’ve put together a list of the top three reasons fall is the worst season for children’s asthma, so that Dr. Ulrike Ziegler can work together with you to help prevent fall asthma problems for your child.
Fall allergy season triggers asthma
If your child has asthma, fall is a peak season for flare-ups caused by exposure to potent allergens like ragweed, the most common cause of fall allergies. Ragweed starts to bloom and spew pollen into the air in early- to mid-August. Its pollen count increases through early September, then finally begins to diminish by late November.
Compared to other types of seasonal allergens like trees and grass, ragweed is unique because it produces a monumental amount of pollen. A single plant can generate up to one billion pollen grains — and if the plant is growing in a hostile environment, it produces even more pollen.
Another concern when it comes to ragweed and its impact on asthma is that the plant protein responsible for allergies is especially potent and capable of causing a highly reactive response in your child.
Of course, ragweed isn’t the only fall allergen to worry about, it’s just the most predominant. Dust mites and mold spores are still around in the fall and they can also trigger asthma.
Fall is the start of cold and flu season
As the cold and flu season begins and kids return to school, they are exposed to the viruses responsible for the cold and flu in greater amounts. Although many children are exposed to the same viruses, children with asthma have a higher risk of developing the illness.
Studies show that allergies and viral infections work together to increase the risk for severe asthma symptoms. It’s no surprise, then, to learn that this one-two punch happens in the fall shortly after school starts.
For children ages 3-18, there’s a seasonal pattern in which more children are hospitalized in September and November with a viral respiratory infection and wheezing due to asthma. About 84% of children hospitalized were discovered to be sensitive to at least one airborne allergen.
Back to school exposure to asthma triggers
When kids head back to school, they’re exposed to all types of airborne irritants and allergens that can trigger their asthma. Chalk dust, dust mites, dusty books, mold, cleaning fluids, pet dander on classmates’ clothing, and exercise-induced asthma can all turn fall into a really bad season for asthma.
Though not as common, if your child is allergic to food, exposure to that allergen at school may also affect your child’s asthma.
Tips to help you manage seasonal asthma challenges
The best way to deal with seasonal asthma problems is to plan ahead and take every possible step to prevent them.
Get a flu shot
Children with asthma are at risk for complications if they get flu, so protect your child with a flu shot.
Get tested for allergies
Children who haven’t already been tested for allergies should come in so we can run tests, determine whether they have allergies, and identify their specific allergens.
Armed with this information, we can work with you to develop a plan to avoid allergens or start immunotherapy. When your child’s allergies are prevented or treated with allergy shots, their asthma flare-ups and symptoms improve.
Take asthma control medications
We can also review your child’s symptoms and see whether the dose or type of their long-term control medications should be adjusted. It’s important to start on a medication regimen before fall arrives to reduce the risk for asthma flare-ups.
Now that you know fall is a precarious time for children with asthma, let’s work together to prevent worsening symptoms. Call the office or use online booking to schedule testing, a flu shot, or a re-evaluation of your child’s asthma action plan.