Alleviating Asthma Flares at the Start of the School Year

Parents who have children with asthma know that the weeks following their first day back to school are often a prime time for a flare. Giovanni Piedimonte, M.D., gives tips for how to prepare for an asthma flare before it happens.

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CLEVELAND – Parents who have children with asthma know that the weeks following their first day back to school are often a prime time for an asthma flare.

According to Giovanni Piedimonte, M.D., of Cleveland Clinic Children’s, for many children with asthma, the best way to avoid a back-to-school flare is to be prepared before it happens.

“A possible strategy is to start an anti-inflammatory controller medication or increase its dosage before the child goes to school, knowing that it is a particularly critical window to get attacks,” said Dr. Piedimonte. “In any case, the child has to always have handy the rescue medication to immediately open his airways in case of an acute attack.”

Asthma is a chronic, recurrent condition that is typically brought on by a trigger. Triggers for asthma flares can include exercise or even cold air, but Dr. Piedimonte said the most common triggers are viruses.

He said when children go back to school, the likelihood of catching a virus increases due to large groups of children being in close proximity to one another.

When a virus goes into the airways of a child with asthma, it produces inflammation which then triggers the asthma to flare.

To help prevent this, Dr. Piedimonte said parents need to be vigilant about having their children take their asthma medications regularly.

He warns though, that some viruses are strong enough to cause symptoms no matter what, and some children with milder asthma that have been weaned off of medications may need to start them again because of viral triggers at back-to-school time.

Dr. Piedimonte said it’s especially important for parents to communicate with their child’s doctor so they can tailor the child’s asthma therapy according to their needs, because a child’s body is always growing and changing

“The lungs are growing; the airways are growing; the immune system is growing; so asthma control changes over time, and the medications may need to be adjusted to the new needs,” said Dr. Piedimonte.

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