Every September, asthma hospitalizations rise. Doctors see more people with asthma episodes and attacks. The third week of the month is the worst. It is called the September Asthma Epidemic or Asthma Peak Week.
Everyone with asthma needs to take extra precautions during September. Children tend to be the most affected during the month. But that doesn’t mean adults aren’t at risk. Parents and grandparents can be affected too.
As we head into Asthma Peak Week, it’s important to know if your asthma is under control, how to avoid getting sick and what to do if you do get sick.
Why Does Asthma Peak in September?
September is the perfect storm for those with asthma and allergies. Ragweed, the most common fall pollen allergy, peaks in September in the U.S. Mold counts go up as leaves collect outside. Children return to school and are exposed to respiratory illnesses. And flu season is starting.
With these happening at the same time, you are exposed to a lot of asthma triggers. This can make it hard for you to keep your asthma under control.
How Can You Stay Healthy During September?
The best way to deal with illness or asthma attacks is to prevent them before they begin.
- Stick to your Asthma Action Plan. Take your long-term control medicine as prescribed by your health care provider. If you move into the Yellow Zone of your plan, take action early so you can get back in the Green Zone.
- Get the flu shot – the yearly vaccine is available now. It takes two weeks to take effect in your body, so now is the time to protect yourself.
- Check if it is time for you to get the pneumococcal vaccine. This vaccine is not done yearly. It helps prevent pneumonia and other illnesses.
- Avoid your asthma triggers. If you are allergic to ragweed or mold, take steps to reduce your exposure to those allergens:
- Remove shoes before entering your home.
- Keep your windows and doors closed during peak pollen times.
- Use a CERTIFIED asthma & allergy friendly® air filter on your home’s furnace/heater.
- Shower and wash your hair before bedtime. Consider using a saline nasal rinse.
- Talk with your allergist about possible treatments for your allergies.
- Practice steps to avoid getting sick. Wash your hands often and for at least 20 seconds. Don’t touch your eyes, mouth and nose. Stay away from people who are sick.
- Get plenty of sleep, eat healthy, stay hydrated and eat well. Take action to keep your stress levels down.
- Work with your health care provider to make sure your asthma is under control.
How Do You Know If Your Asthma Is Not Under Control?
If your asthma is well-controlled, you have a better chance of recovering faster or avoiding complications from an illness. It’s important to know if your asthma is under control, especially as the flu and other respiratory illnesses are beginning to spread. Keep the Rules of Two® in mind:
- Do you take your quick-relief inhaler more than two times a week?
- Do you awaken at night with asthma more than two times a month?
- Do you refill your quick-relief inhaler more than two times a year?
- Do you measure your peak flow at less than two times 10 (20%) from baseline with asthma symptoms?
If these apply to you, talk with your health care provider.
Also, If you are taking oral corticosteroids (such as prednisone) two or more times per year, ask your health care provider about other options. OCS can have serious, long-term side effects. Some of them may include osteoporosis (brittle bones), diabetes and cataracts.
Your health care provider may run more tests or have you try other medicines. Biologics are a type of treatment used to treat severe, uncontrolled asthma that may reduce the number of asthma attacks you have and reduce the need for OCS. Biologic treatments are given as shots or infusions every few weeks. The treatment targets and blocks a cell or protein in your body that leads to airway inflammation.
What If You Get Sick Anyway?
No matter how hard you try, sometimes you still get sick. As soon as you become sick, contact your health care provider. The sooner you treat the illness or asthma episode, you have a better chance of keeping it from getting worse.
- Contact your health care provider as soon as possible once you realize you are sick. If you think you may be contagious, call your health care provider first to avoid spreading the illness to others.
- Tell your health care provider all the symptoms you are having and how long you have had them.
- If you suspect you have been exposed to the flu or are having symptoms of the flu, share that information with your health care provider.
- Let them know what medicines you have been taking and how often – including prescription and over-the-counter.
- Follow your new treatment plan, if your health care provider gives you one. Asthma can be serious and you may need a course of oral corticosteroids to fight the inflammation and help you breathe.
- Get plenty of rest. Drink water and eat healthy foods. Continue to avoid your asthma triggers.
- Know your Red Zone signs on your Asthma Action Plan. If you move into the Red Zone, contact your health care provider right away or go directly to the emergency room.
If you get sick with a respiratory illness, don’t ignore or try to push through it. That can make your asthma harder to get under control if you get to the point where you need emergency treatment. It can also have serious consequences.
Good asthma control year-round is key to staying healthy during September. Stick with your treatment plan, avoid your triggers and pay attention to your asthma control. Then next year, you’ll be better prepared to face Asthma Peak Week.
Rules of Two® is a federally registered trademark of Baylor Health Care System. Used with permission.
Medical Review September 2018.
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