So, What's the Deal with Asthma Peak Week?
Fellow asthma sufferers – if you have ever noticed that your symptoms worsen in the early fall, you’re probably not imagining it!
Experts have reviewed thousands of patient charts over the years and identified a specific week, each year, where asthma symptoms often worsen for many asthma sufferers.
Let’s talk about Asthma Peak Week.
What Is Asthma Peak Week?
Asthma Peak Week is typically the third week of September, and it is notably when asthma attacks and hospitalizations are at their highest. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, “in the third week of September, both adults and children with asthma are exposed to more asthma and allergy triggers such as ragweed pollen, respiratory infections, and dust and mold in school buildings.”
Why does this asthma “Peak Week” occur? Those of us who have asthma that is worsened by allergies (which, let’s face it, is most of us!) – specifically grasses like ragweed, which are highest in early to mid-fall – are going to be feeling pretty awful in mid-September. Add into the mix children going back to school, which brings about the beginning of cold and flu season, and we have Asthma Peak Week!
According to Dr. Clifford Bassett, an allergist and spokesperson for the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, “Although peak asthma time can vary from late summer to early fall, the third week of September is known as Asthma Peak Week… Every September, asthma hospitalizations rise and doctors see more people with asthma episodes and attacks. This is the time of year we see a significant rise in various pollen, i.e. ragweed, weeds, as well as molds.”
Why Is Asthma Peak Week Significant?
Dr. Bassett notes that each year, he meets patients who are newly diagnosed with asthma and allergies, and they are frequently diagnosed during Peak Week. It is the first time they have any type of symptoms, so they are shocked. According to Dr. Bassett, “they are often surprised to learn they have seasonal triggered asthma. In fact, having a history of allergies is a risk for developing asthma.”
The Ontario Asthma Surveillance Information System provided information between the years 2003 to 2013; this system is a population-based surveillance system that contains over two million people with asthma. Researchers were able to extract data to determine if Peak Week was really a “thing.”
According to researchers, the rate of asthma emergency department visits was consistently highest in September but became less pronounced over the years. In fact, since 2005, there has been a 51.7% reduction in ED visits related to asthma. Despite these findings, researchers state, “while the magnitude of the September peak has decreased over time, the asthma ED visit rate remains significantly higher in September than in other months. Physician visits are also highest in the fall. These findings stress the importance of empowering children and families to maintain good asthma control throughout the year, including hand washing, to minimize respiratory viral infections in September.”
How Can Those with Asthma Minimize Symptoms During Peak Week?
Peak Week doesn’t have to be terrible if we prepare.
Knowing when Peak Week is – that is half the battle. Mark it on your calendar and prepare for good health!
In the weeks leading up to Peak Week, here’s what you can do:
- Make an appointment with your healthcare provider
- Review your overall health, especially the health of your lungs.
- Evaluate your asthma medications and ensure that your dosages are adequate.
- Make sure that you also have refills of your medications.
- Check your medications at home – specifically your rescue inhaler. Do you have enough? Is it expired? Do you have what you need?
Practice prevention of illness! Here are some tips:
- Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer. Carry hand sanitizer for those times when you can’t use soap and water.
- Do not touch your hands to your nose, mouth and eyes.
- Avoid interaction with those who are ill.
- Stay up-to-date on your vaccines – especially the flu vaccine and the pneumococcal vaccine. If your healthcare provider recommends others, it is likely a good idea to get those as well.
Avoid Your Triggers
Avoid your asthma triggers. Though it may be difficult to avoid ragweed when it is September and you need to commute to work, there are definitely still things you can do:
- Take off your shoes and clothing at the door. This ensures you are not bringing any allergens into your home.
- Keep doors and windows shut. If it is hot, use air-conditioning.
- Shower before going to bed. This removes any allergens from your hair and body before going to bed.
- Continually change your air filters and use filters that are certified as asthma and allergy friendly.
It goes without saying, but it is also recommended to get plenty of rest, stay hydrated, eat well and manage stress during asthma Peak Week.