During summer break, a lot of kids stay away from things like textbooks, essays and math problems, but another thing they're staying away from is their asthma medicine, says Dr. Kirstin Carel of National Jewish Health in Denver.
Carel says that a good number of asthmatic children are able to take breaks from their medicine, and many do it during summer vacation, which makes them more susceptible to having a flare up at the beginning of the school year.
"This time of year, it's a perfect storm to set many kids up for asthma attacks," says Carel. "You've got this triple whammy of conditions, with viruses going around, because the kids have all gone back to school and they're sharing them. There are allergens feeding into their asthma, and they may not have been as consistent with their medications over the summer as they should have been."
Carel says that while it may be okay for some kids to stop taking their medication during the summer, the sooner they get back on their routine the better.
"For those who can, it's nice to have a break from the medications over the summer," she said. "I always want them to re-start taking medications at least two weeks before going back to school. Fortunately, we have great medications that can help keep their inflammation down as much as possible, but it's a matter of them having the medicine in their system when it needs to be in their system."
Obviously, parents should speak to their child's doctor to see if he or she can take breaks from their medication.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), kids who have asthma miss a combined total of 14.4 million school days each year, and the bulk of these absences are at the start of each school year.
But what else can trigger an asthma attack? A bunch of different things, says the CDC, and here are just a few:
Bad weather, certain foods, mold, dust in the home, tobacco smoke, pets and roach droppings just for starters. And anxiety and extreme worry can cause an asthma attack too.
But it's the brand-new school year that has a lot of parents and doctors worried, so it's suggested children get back on their medication before the school year starts.
And parents should make sure their child's school is prepared for an asthma emergency, by having an asthma action plan on file.
"An asthma action plan is a document that is created between a doctor and a patient with directions as to what to do, based on asthma symptoms or peak flow readings," the American Lung Association advises. "A copy of a student's asthma action plan should be filed in the school nurse's office. It's recommended that teachers and school staff have copies of an asthma action plan for those students they see on a regular basis."
Serenity Williams-Fregia, a 13-year old with asthma, says her condition makes her miss a lot of school.
"It happens every year, I always get sick" she said. "Very sick, actually, and I feel like just as school begins, I'm already falling behind."
"When people are coughing, I get really defensive because I don't want to get sick either, because then my asthma acts up really bad and I can't handle it."
Make a plan
So to help prevent this from happening, Carel says parents should have a new back-to-school asthma plan for each new school year. And parents should make sure their child's medication hasn't expired, especially if she's lowered the amount of medicine she's taken during the summer.
And meeting with your child's school nurse is important as well, to make sure all the necessary paperwork is filled out and to make sure the school has all of your child's medications on hand. Plus, parents should remind their asthmatic child to wash his or her hands and practice good hygiene, both at home and in school.
This of course will decrease the chance of your child passing any germs on to somebody else.
Carel says it's all about planning when it comes to making sure your asthmatic child starts of the school year right, and the better you plan, the more likely your child will avoid an attack at the beginning of school.
"A little planning can go a long way in making sure your child is safe, especially at a time of year when the conditions are most likely to cause problems," she says.