What in the World Is the "September Epidemic"?!

You may have never heard of the "September Epidemic", but it is well known by doctors, hospitals and researchers.

What is it?

It's the time of year when asthma hospitalizations peak. You may think hospitalizations peak in the middle of winter during cold and flu season.

But, statistics show that's not the case. Asthma & Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) says that:

"Many more people are hospitalized for asthma shortly after school starts than at any other time of the year. The number of asthma hospitalizations peaks first for school-age children, then preschool children, then adults."

And CNN reports:

"Many parents don't realize that the worst asthma day of the year actually occurs in September. Clinical studies have shown that greatest number of hospitalizations due to asthma peak 17 days after Labor Day...."

What's going on in schools?

Well, a lot. Classrooms are a "hotbed of germs." Think about it - ever see kids picking their nose, wiping it on the back of their sleeve, and coughing into their hand? I've seen it all as Classroom Parent, PTA President, etc. I went on every field trip and planned class parties. And I have seen a lot of things in the classroom that made me want to gag (and make a mental note to reinforce our family rules about blowing noses and washing hands.)

It's pretty easy to pick up germs from the other kids in the classroom and end up sick. And then the fun begins! Usually, my kids would pass along their cold to their little brother or sister, and then the Hubster and I would get it next. So, after a few weeks, the whole family was sick, and we were going through a LOT of breathing treatments with Albuterol. And a cold isn't just a cold when you have asthma, it's easy for it to morph into pneumonia (which is what hospitalized my kids many times when they were young.)

What else goes on in the classroom?

Schools can have mold, mice, cockroaches and pollen. And classmates that have cats or dogs at home can bring allergens (pet dander) to school on their clothing and backpacks.

In fact, we had this problem when Middle Son was in 2nd grade. When school started, he had an asthma attack and problems breathing every day. We couldn't figure out what was going on! After a little detective work, we figured out there were a lot of kids in class with pets at home, and they would bring pet dander to school on their clothes. We couldn't exactly ask all of his classmates to get rid of their pets! So Middle Son started allergy shots.

So, what else can you do to avoid the September Epidemic?

National Jewish has 10 ways to protect yourself. They are:

  1. Wash hands or use hand sanitizer often, especially before eating and touching the face, and after using the restroom.
  2. Follow your Asthma Action Plan.
  3. Monitor symptoms and peak flow rates.
  4. Cover nose and mouth with tissue or elbow when coughing or sneezing.
  5. Keep sick family members home.
  6. Use medications before symptoms begin.
  7. Consistently use allergy and asthma medication even when symptom-free.
  8. Minimize environmental triggers.
  9. Keep medication refills on hand.
  10. Keep asthma medication and peak flow meter at school.

So, be careful when school starts. And if your child is sick and seems to be getting worse, Nemours hospital has info for "When to Go to the ER if Your Child Has Asthma."

So, send the kiddos back to school with lots of hand sanitizer, and keep your fingers crossed that they stay healthy!

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