The Lung Association

The Lung Association

September 04, 2009 10:00 ET

September and School: The "Perfect Storm" for Asthma

How parents and students with asthma can avoid the annual asthma September spike

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Sept. 4, 2009) - Ontario Lung Association encourages parents to take preventative steps to protect their children from the "September spike" - the annual increase in asthma-related emergency room visits that happens shortly after school begins. This phenomenon usually occurs the third week in September - week 38 - when children are back in classroom settings and cold viruses are easily spread. The fall's anticipated H1N1 flu virus compounds the concern for the September spike that could potentially result in record numbers of children suffering asthma attacks and the over-burdening of Ontario hospital's Emergency Departments.

"Many respirologists refer to the September spike as the 'perfect storm'," says Carole Madeley, director of Respiratory Health Programs for the Ontario Lung Association. "Cold viruses, combined with the fact that many kids with asthma have changed or interrupted their regular asthma management schedule over the summer months, act as major triggers, resulting in a dramatic spike in visits to Emergency Departments."

Cold viruses - that are easily spread from person to person - are one of the most common triggers for asthma symptoms, a disease that affects about 20 percent of Ontario children. Students are in close contact with each other in classrooms, schoolyards and buses, and this close contact helps germs spread and increases children's risk of infection. Parents are also at risk of catching the viruses brought home by their children.

Dr. Tom Kovesi, pediatric respirologist at Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) says, "If you have been prescribed a controller medication (such as an inhaled steroid or Singulair®) and you don't take it all year round, you should definitely ask your doctor whether you should start taking it regularly to prepare for the September peak."

Ontario Lung Association recommends parents take steps to prevent their child from having an asthma attack triggered by the cold or flu virus. The use of controller medication significantly reduces the risk of emergency treatment for asthma and by ensuring proper asthma control, parents can protect their child all year round.

How to prevent the September asthma spike:

- Become familiar with your child's triggers and avoid them where possible. A diary card obtained from the Ontario Lung Association can help to track triggers.

- Learn what medications control asthma and what medications only relieve symptoms.

- Learn how to use medications properly

- Parents should ask their child's healthcare provider for a written asthma action plan so they know what to do if their child's symptoms worsen.

- Slow the spread of viruses by fighting germs and washing hands properly - visit to download a handy copy

- Work with a certified asthma educator to learn about effective asthma management

Communication with school is critical

Teachers are well positioned to observe any problems a child may be having due to asthma because they see him or her for long periods each day. By knowing and reporting the early warning signs of poor asthma control, teachers can help prevent a major breathing emergency.

Communication with teachers and school staff is important. "Parents should set up an appointment to talk to their child's teachers before classes start," says Madeley. "Give teachers a copy of his/her asthma action plan and make sure that they know what to do in an emergency."

Ontario Lung Association has two new tools for teachers and parents to assist in helping children manage their asthma: the Student Asthma Management Plan and the clinically-approved poster, Managing Asthma Episodes. Both are available by calling the Ontario Lung Association's Asthma Action Helpline at 1-888-344-LUNG (5864).

Parents: If your child gets sick

A child may end up with the sniffles despite best efforts to avoid getting sick. Parents are encouraged to:

- Refer to their child's written asthma action plan or speak to your doctor about asthma management both during a cold and on a day-to-day basis.

- Teach proper hand-washing technique and remind your child to throw away used tissues.

- If your child gets sick with the flu, keep him or her at home.

- Encourage extra rest and fluids during bouts of illness.

- Allow them to return to regular activities, like sports, only when they are feeling better.

For more information about ways to protect you and your family against the September asthma or the H1N1 flu virus, call the Ontario Lung Association's Asthma Action Helpline at 1-888-344-LUNG (5864) and speak to a certified respiratory educator or visit

About the Ontario Lung Association

The Lung Association is one of Canada's longest serving not-for-profit health-promotion organizations. The Lung Association is concerned with the prevention and control of asthma, chronic lung disease caused by smoking and with air quality and its effect on lung health.



Suggested scripts for September spike public awareness campaign:

September and school: the perfect storm for asthma.

For children with asthma, the start of the school year can be a health risk.

The easy spread of cold and flu viruses in the classroom can lead to asthma attacks. Take steps to protect your child. Visit the Ontario Lung Association at ON dot LUNG dot CA/ spike

Children should be starting school in September, not making asthma-related Emergency Room visits. The Ontario Lung Association reminds parents of children with asthma to take preventative steps against the September spike. Visit ON dot LUNG dot CA/ spike.

Contact Information

  • Additional information/ media inquiries:
    Ontario Lung Association
    Karen Petcoff
    416-864-9911 ext 283/ 414-275-6844