Employee & Community Health

Five summer tips to prevent asthma attacks

7/30/2015

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Summer break in Minnesota is a great time for children to recharge and play outdoors. But it is definitely not a good time to take a break from asthma medications and asthma management. 

Children who reduce or stop taking their asthma medications during the summer months are at a greater risk of serious asthma symptoms in the fall. 

Even if children aren't having symptoms, summer vacation doesn't apply to asthma medications says Dr. Deborah McWilliams, pediatrician and chair of the Division of Community Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine. "It's very important that people who have asthma continue to take all their asthma medications as prescribed over the summer, even if they don't have symptoms," McWilliams said. "It's the best way to prevent asthma symptoms from starting and curbing a possible asthma attack."

Asthma hospitalizations and emergency department visits tend to spike in the fall, possible due to viral respiratory infections and exposure to fall pollen and outdoor mold. Children heading back to school also have closer personal contact with many more children, which increases their exposure to infections that can trigger an asthma attack. Because of this trend, summer is a crucial time for parents to start gearing up for fall by scheduling an asthma 'check-up' with a health care provider. 

Follow these five tips to have a healthy summer and start of school:

Take your asthma medications every day - Children who reduce or stop taking their asthma medications during the summer months are at greater risk of serious asthma symptoms in the fall. 

Schedule an asthma check-up - Summer is a good time to get ready for fall. Schedule an asthma check-up now with your health care provider for you or your child. It's especially important for children to see their health care provider before school starts to adjust asthma medications, check your inhaler technique, and get an updated written asthma action plan (AAP) to have at home and give a copy to the school nurse. Talk with your health care provider about your asthma action plan and how to manage asthma on a daily basis before your child heads back to school. 

Know and avoid your asthma triggers - Each person's asthma responds to different triggers. Triggers such as colds (viruses), tobacco smoke, pollen, outdoor air pollution, wood smoke, dander from animals and even cold air can irritate your airways and lead to an asthma attack. Sports and other outdoor activities can make asthma flare up. Work with your health care provider to create a written asthma action plan that lists your asthma triggers, medications and what to do to keep your asthma well controlled throughout the year. 

Play with asthma - Be smart when you exercise. Carry your rescue inhaler with you during runs, workouts and team practices. Avoid exercising outdoors on days that the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency issues an Air Quality Alert. Exercising is good for people who have asthma, but it pays to play it safe. 

Pack smart for camp and family travel If your child is going to camp (day or overnight), tell them about your child's asthma, their triggers, and give them a copy of the AAP along with any asthma medications. If you're travelling across country or just for an overnight, make sure all asthma medications are packed, inhalers are full (check the expiration date) and that they'll last the length of the trip.