Kevin Murphy, M.D.
Summertime means replacing school with fun-filled activities that leave children feeling like they don’t have a care in the world. But if your child has asthma, this feeling can quickly turn into one of chest tightness and shortness of breath.
Summer brings about afternoons in the sun, cookouts and site-seeing vacations, but with each of these leisurely activities comes a different type of asthma trigger. Common summer asthma triggers include:
No two cases of asthma are the same, so your child will not be affected by every potential trigger. The best way to manage asthma is to be proactive and aware of the conditions that tend to cause an attack for your child.
If your child’s triggers include allergens, monitor when substances specific to his or her condition are at their peak and keep your doors and windows closed. If pet hair is an allergic trigger, clean your home thoroughly, as many animals shed down to summer coats when the temperature rises. Also be sure to change or clean your air conditioning filter every month.
If your child’s asthma is triggered by mold, be wary of warm, damp and humid environments. Use a dehumidifier and turn on your air conditioner to maintain an environment that is not conducive for mold growth in your home. Outdoors, remove any piles of dead trees, plants or grass that could foster mold growth when dampened by summer rains and dew.
If hot weather and heavy air are triggers for your child, monitor the temperature and the Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Quality Index (AQI). Any AQI measurement over 100 is considered unhealthy for sensitive groups, such as asthmatics with weather triggers. You can find the AQI for many areas at airnow.gov. Use your judgment; if the outdoor condition is dangerous, move your child’s exercise and daily activities inside.
No matter what triggers your child’s asthma, keep a fast-acting bronchodilator inhaler (reliever medication) with him or her at all times. Asthma is a very manageable condition, but only if patients and families are diligent with their treatment and pay attention to their reactions to environmental triggers.