This article originally appeared in the April 11, 2013, edition of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Springtime brings flowers, warmer weather and longer days—but it can also bring difficulty to children with asthma.
Cold, dry air is a common asthma trigger that can cause severe symptoms quickly, especially in winter. Dry, windy weather can also stir up pollen and mold in the air. Wet weather encourages the growth of mold spores, another trigger for many people with asthma. Hot, humid air can also bring asthma triggers.
Experts don’t entirely understand the effect weather has on asthma symptoms, but there is clearly a connection. Many studies show that asthma-related emergency room visits soar with certain weather conditions. Interestingly, thunderstorms can also cause asthma problems—one study concluded that the number of spores in the air doubled as a result of the stronger wind that comes with storms. Air pollution also has a negative effect on asthma symptoms.
Many people may experience an asthma attack during a sudden weather change—and anyone who has spent springtime in St. Louis knows the only weather constant is that it will change. When it seems like every type of weather can trigger asthma symptoms, what can a parent do to help their child keep asthma in check?
If you believe weather is having an effect on your child’s asthma, keep a diary of asthma symptoms your child is experiencing and potential triggers you recognize to discuss with your doctor. You’ll be able to spot trends and work with your child’s pediatrician or allergist to come up with a solution. Your child should have a written asthma plan to help you understand his or her progress and what to do if there is an asthma attack.
After you understand the type of weather that triggers your child’s asthma, there are some steps you can take to lessen the effects they are experiencing.
- Keep an eye on pollen and mold counts as well as extreme heat or cold that might have an impact on your child’s asthma. On these days, limit your child’s outdoor activities.
- It’s very tempting to keep windows open during beautiful springtime weather, but closing windows at least during the night time will help decrease your child’s exposure to pollen and mold, as will running the air conditioning.
- Pollen levels are highest in the morning. When possible, keep your child indoors before 10 a.m.
- Children with asthma shouldn’t mow the lawn or rake leaves and should be kept away from freshly cut grass and leaf piles. (This isn’t a get-out-of-chores free, card, however: there are plenty of chores to go around!)
- Make sure your child always has rescue medication in case of an asthma attack.
Asthma is a common childhood condition, but it needn’t be something that keeps your child from experiencing all the great outdoors has to offer. With some planning and monitoring, children with asthma should be able to enjoy being outdoors any season of the year.
Dr. Bob Wilmott is Chief of Pediatrics at SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center and is IMMUNO Professor and Chair of the Department of Pediatrics at Saint Louis University. If you have a question about your child’s health, go to the “Ask Dr. Bob” section of the Cardinal Glennon website at www.cardinalglennon.com.