Most people tend to associate winter months with coughing and sniffles. But for people with asthma, summertime can be just as big a trigger for asthma exacerbations.
“My daughter, Alexis, has coughed nearly the entire school year,” says Maureen Casey of Park Slope, Brooklyn. After being diagnosed with asthmatic bronchitis in October, the 7-year-old had been treated for upper respiratory infections for most of first grade. Casey admits it has been a tense time, and she has worried about her daughter’s safety in school when her cough became very bad.
“Coughing is part of having colds (or upper respiratory tract infections, URI) in children. Most school-aged children can have six to 12 URIs in one year, which can mean one almost every month, but tending to be more frequent during the fall and winter,” says Dr. Jason Price, pediatric pulmonologist and co-founder of Hudson Allergy in Tribeca. “If the cough resolves after a few days with the other symptoms (fevers, congestion, runny nose), then they probably do not need a nebulizer or pump treatment as long as they are not wheezing or having any respiratory distress.”
Now Casey’s worries turn to the summer.
“Since being diagnosed, I wonder what will happen this summer when the temperatures rise, and she runs around and coughs.”
“Weather changes — including going from a cool, air-conditioned room to hot and humid weather outdoors — can trigger asthma. As people tend to be more active during the warmer months, we see more asthma exacerbations in children with exercise-induced asthma,” explains Price. “Any type of smoke, whether it be from campfires or barbecues, can be irritant and trigger asthma. Chlorine from pools can also act as an irritant and trigger asthma exacerbations as well. There are also some summer pollens that can trigger asthma, so parents should keep an eye on the pollen count.”
Of course, preparation is needed when planning summer activities. If your child has an inhaler, she needs to take it with her wherever she goes: vacations, beach, pool, waterpark, zoo, or even when just playing sports. Price advises using a valved holding chamber when children use their inhaler.
“Proper use of the chamber with the pump is extremely important in order to ensure the medication is delivered appropriately to the lungs.”
Identifying triggers is essential to preventing asthma attacks.
“If parents know their child’s asthma triggers, they may want to discuss using the inhaler prior to the trigger with their doctor,” says Price. “For example, if a child has a history of wheezing when at a chlorinated pool, it may be beneficial to use their inhaler prior to going to the pool. This should be discussed with their doctor first.”
Although asthma is a serious disease, with proper education and regular treatment, “there is no reason to keep your child indoors during the summer months,” he says. So prepare first, but then have fun.
Danielle Sullivan, a mom of three, has worked as a writer and editor in the parenting world for more than 10 years. Sullivan also writes about pets and parenting for Disney’s Babble.com. Find her on Facebook and Twitter @DanniSullWriter, or on her blog, Some Puppy To Love.