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In the primary care practice at Boston Children's Hospital where I work, we've noticed that in September a lot of our patients with asthma get sick enough to need to be hospitalized.
We're not entirely sure why this is, but we have some ideas. Fall allergy season is definitely part of it, but we don't see the same spike in the spring, so that's not all of it. We think that some of it has to do with people getting a bit, well, relaxed over the summer--and getting caught off guard when new routines and new demands--and new asthma triggers--arrive in September.
If you have a child with asthma, here are the four things you should do this month to give them the best chance of a wheeze-free fall:
1. Make sure you have an Asthma Action Plan. These are written plans that list all the medications your child needs and when and how they should be taken. They are usually divided up into three "zones": green for when all is great, yellow for when asthma is acting up, and red for when it's really bad. Because the instructions may be different depending on which zone your child is in (and because many children with asthma need several medications), it can get confusing--having it written down makes a big difference.
2. Check all your medications to be sure you have enough. There's nothing worse than having a wheezing kid in the middle of the night and reaching for medicine--only to find that it's all gone. Many inhalers have counters on them to let you how many puffs are left. If you're not sure, bring it to the pharmacy for help. If you need refills, call your doctor's office. If you need extra to leave at school, be sure to ask for that too.
3. Get the paperwork you need for your child to get medication at school. Without an authorization from a doctor, the school nurse might not be able to give anything if your child is wheezing--and things can get worse in the time it takes you to go get them. If you can't get the exact forms from the school, your doctor's office should be able to provide you with something you can use.
4. As soon as it's available, get a flu shot. Usually the flu shot becomes available around the end of August. People in high-risk groups, like kids with asthma, should be among the first to get it. Stay in touch with your doctor about when it will arrive, and keep an ear out for flu clinics in your community. Remember that everyone in the family should be immunized if you want to be sure to keep your child safe. For more information about flu vaccine, visit www.flu.gov.
Get all this done now (you can do it all in a visit to the doctor--we try to get as many of our asthma patients in as we can) so that you can give your child the best, healthiest school year possible.
If your child has an inhaler, they should be using an aerochamber. Here's a video on how to use one (for more videos, check out the bottom of our Asthma page):
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