September Peak Month for Kids' Asthma Flares: Study03/10/14
MONDAY, March 10, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Many parents know
that allergies are seasonal, but fewer may realize that the same is
true of asthma: A new study suggests the riskiest time for children
with asthma is September, as they head back to school.
Researchers found that the rates of asthma flares were twice as
high in that month as they were in August. Not surprisingly, the
study also found a more than two-fold higher rate of prescriptions
for asthma rescue inhalers in September compared to August.
"Returning to school after summer is strongly associated with an increased risk for asthma exacerbations and unscheduled visits to the primary care physician," wrote researcher Dr. Herman Avner Cohen, of the Sackler Faculty of Medicine at Tel Aviv University, in Israel.
Results of the study were released online March 10 and will be
published in the April print issue of
Asthma is a chronic disease of the airways. It causes
inflammation that makes breathing difficult, according to the U.S.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms of asthma
include wheezing, coughing and shortness of breath.
Certain environmental triggers cause asthma symptoms to flare,
such as allergens like pollen, mold or dust mites, infections, air
pollution, cold weather, exercise and tobacco smoke, the CDC notes.
Seasonal variations in asthma symptoms have also been reported,
according to study background information.
For the current study, Israeli researchers hoped to better
identify when asthma tends to worsen during the year, so that
parents and physicians might be better prepared to prevent these
The researchers reviewed five years of health data from more
than 900,000 Israeli children between the ages of 2 and 15. From
that group, nearly 9 percent (or more than 82,000) had been
diagnosed with asthma. Nearly half of the children with asthma were
between 2 and 5. Just under one-quarter were between 6 and 9, and
just over one-quarter were between 10 and 15.
During the study period, the researchers noted that asthma
flare-ups were twice as likely to occur in September as they were
in August. They also found that prescriptions for asthma
bronchodilators (rescue inhalers) were more than twice as high in
September compared to August.
They also saw another rise in asthma flare-ups in late fall, and
intermittently throughout the winter, according to the study.
During the summer months, fewer prescriptions were filled for
asthma medications. The researchers suggest this means that the use
of asthma-controlling medications is likely at its lowest level of
the year just before children return to school.
Other factors that may cause a rise in September are fall
allergies, and greater exposure to infections because children are
congregating together at school.
The study reinforces what health professionals already
suspected, one U.S. expert said.
"People get lax about taking asthma medications in the summer, and then children are exposed to viral infections when they go back to school. It's a high viral time. And, it's a high allergy time, too," said Dr. Jennifer Appleyard, chief of allergy and immunology at St. John Hospital and Medical Center, in Detroit.
"It's important to remember that just because your kid is doing well in the summer, don't stop or change asthma medications without talking to the doctor," she said.
"Asthma flares are often triggered by allergies and infections, and those things occur in seasonal patterns. But, the seasons may vary depending on where you live and what your triggers are," Appleyard explained.
Dr. Len Horovitz, a pulmonologist at Lenox Hill Hospital, in New
York City, said, "You need to know what your individual triggers
are, and try to avoid whatever factors you can avoid."
"In the spring, asthma may flare because of allergies. In the summer, there can be ozone peaks that exacerbate asthma," he said. "In the fall, it can be allergies and infection, and in the winter, it can be cold weather, indoor allergens and flu."
Like Appleyard, Horovitz said what's most important is to use
your asthma medications as directed.
"Most people tend to slack off on their medications when they're feeling well," he said. "But, if you're doing well, it's becauseyou're taking your medicine. It's hard to take medicine when you don't feel bad, when you're not relieving something, but with asthma, like with cholesterol or blood pressure, it's necessary."
Learn more about asthma triggers from the
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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