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September Spike

What is the September Spike?

Every year, around the third week of September, there is an increase in asthma attacks in Canadian students. It is known as the “September Spike” since there is an increase in visits to emergency departments and doctors’ offices in the weeks after the start of the school year. For students who have asthma, it is recommended to take extra care at this time of year to reduce their risks.

Why does the September Spike happen?

Researchers have found that the main reason for this increase is cold viruses that spread quickly when students are in close contact with each other in classrooms, schoolyards and buses. It is also suspected that over the summer months many children have interrupted their regular asthma management schedule, leading to a loss of asthma control. Other possible causes for September flare-ups include indoor and outdoor mould and seasonal pollen (e.g., ragweed).

What can I do to keep my child’s asthma under control during the September Spike?

Effective asthma management requires daily effort. Parents can help to ensure that their child’s asthma is kept under control with the following steps:

  • If your child doesn’t already have a written “asthma action plan”, ask your healthcare provider to complete one for you. The asthma action plan helps guide you on what steps to take if asthma symptoms start. Download the Lung Health Foundation’s asthma action plan for children.
  • Make sure your child is taking their asthma controller medication as prescribed. Any symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, chest tightness or shortness of breath can mean asthma is not under control.
  • Children should have quick access to their fast-acting reliever inhaler at all times. The reliever inhaler, which is usually blue in colour, can quickly help to relieve symptoms.
  • Teach your children how to avoid infections by washing their hands regularly. Use hand sanitizer when a sink is not available.
  • Every member of your family should get the flu shot every year. The flu shot reduces your own risk but also the risk to others.

Is my child’s school asthma-friendly?

  • School boards should develop and maintain asthma policies and procedures that help protect students who have asthma
  • When old enough, your child should be able to carry their asthma rescue inhalers at school – with your permission
  • Work with your child’s school on a school asthma management plan, to help manage your child’s asthma while they are at school or on a field trip.