Start of a school year means a spike in asthmatic emergencies

September 13, 2006

A multi-institution study from Canada that tracks the surge in asthma emergencies after the start of the school year serves to remind clinicians that back-to-school asthma is an annual and predictable phenomenon triggered by students' return to school with viral infections. The phenomenon has been documented in previous studies, in the United States and Canada, that showed that more than six times as many asthmatic children of elementary school age are admitted to the hospital in early fall than in summer.But you can make a difference when this seasonal wave overtakes young asthmatics: Give their parents appropriate counseling to help them lessen the morbidity that arises in the classroom and cafeteria. On that point, the American Lung Association offers insight and assistance.

A multi-institution study from Canada that tracks the surge in asthma emergencies after the start of the school year serves to remind clinicians that back-to-school asthma is an annual and predictable phenomenon triggered by students' return to school with viral infections. The phenomenon has been documented in previous studies, in the United States and Canada, that showed that more than six times as many asthmatic children of elementary school age are admitted to the hospital in early fall than in summer.

But you can make a difference when this seasonal wave overtakes young asthmatics: Give their parents appropriate counseling to help them lessen the morbidity that arises in the classroom and cafeteria. On that point, the American Lung Association offers insight and assistance.

Responding to the findings of the study from Canada, published in the January 2006 issue of the Journal of Asthma and Clinical Immunology, the ALA offers the results of its own survey, which reveal that, although asthma emergencies are predictable, parents of an asthmatic child don't always take the basic steps necessary to manage the disease. Fewer than one half (48%) of parents, for example, have talked to their child's teacher about asthma, only 42% have made certain that their child's medication is available at school, and fewer than one-third (31%) have their child under medical supervision.

"Back-to-school asthma is a predictable occurrence, and parents of an asthmatic child should be prepared," said Maureen Damitz, director of community education at the ALA of Metropolitan Chicago. "Parents can avoid an unmanageable medical crisis at school by having a fast-acting medication on hand, communicating with the child's teachers and consult with a physician to develop an asthma action plan for their child."

You can help parents manage their child's asthma by reminding them to stay up to date on office visits, keep prescriptions updated and filled for the first day of school, make sure appropriate self-medication forms are signed and on file at the child's school, schedule a flu shot now so the child is immunized in October, and complete a 504 plan with the school that communicates the child's health needs to all appropriate staff members.