Avoid Back-to-School Flareups

Help your kids avoid the September spike in asthma symptoms

As summer winds down, many parents start gearing up for the school year which usually means buying school supplies and longer pants. But for parents of children with asthma, getting ready for school should also include taking steps to protect their children from the “September Spike” – the sharp rise in kids’ asthma symptoms that happens soon after school begins.

Special considerations for COVID-19

Back to school will be difficult for both students and teachers living with asthma. As schools reopen during the COVID-19 pandemic, there will be new aspects of asthma management to consider. Teaching your children about proper mask-wearing and hand washing is an important tool to help protect them from COVID-19.


Make sure your child knows how to wear their mask or face covering properly. It should cover both the nose and mouth. If the mask gets soiled or wet, be sure to wash and dry it before wearing it again. It may be a good idea to pack more than one mask, so they have a spare easily accessible during the school day.

        Tips for Wearing Masks:

  • Experiment with different types of mask materials and styles. Some masks may feel more comfortable or be more breathable. 
  • Teach your child to always put on and remove a mask with clean hands.
  • Do not share masks.
  • Help your children adjust by having them wear it around the house for 20 minutes so they can adjust to how it feels.
  • There is not a recommended, “best mask” for people with asthma. Experiment to find the mask material that works best for your child: cloth masks, bandanas, and scarfs can all be options.
  • Pack 1-2 spare masks in your child's backpack in case they become soiled or wet during the school day. 

Hand Washing

It's important to teach your child the correct hand washing technique and the importance of frequent hand washing.

  • Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
  • Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and...
  • Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
  • Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  • Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.


What is to blame for the September Spike in asthma symptoms?

When youth go back to school, they are suddenly in close quarters with many other kids – and with the germs and viruses, children carry. Viruses, including the common cold, are one of the top triggers for asthma symptoms in kids. For those with asthma, especially uncontrolled asthma, a simple cold can lead to dangerous symptoms and unscheduled visits to the doctor or the emergency department.

Other triggers (things that make asthma worse) can also set off asthma in September. It is the peak season for ragweed, some pollens, dust, and molds. It is also a time of higher stress. These are all common triggers for kids with asthma.

School-age children are not the only ones affected by the September Spike. Children with colds often pass their germs on to other family members. Adults with asthma also have a spike in symptoms each September.

Preparing for the September Spike

Below we have outlined some tips that parents of children with asthma can follow. These steps will help ensure they are as prepared for returning to school.

  • Ensure that your child takes their asthma controller medication throughout the year, as prescribed, even when not experiencing symptoms. 
  • Schedule regular asthma check-ups with your child's doctor to ensure their asthma is properly controlled. It’s especially important to have a checkup right before your child goes back to school.
  • Make sure you refill or renew your child’s asthma medication prescription. Have a 30-day supply of medication on hand.
  • Identify your child’s asthma triggers and teach them best practices on how to avoid them.
  • Teach your child what to do in case an asthma attack occurs. 
  • Help your child understand their asthma, including teaching them how to use their medications properly. Review their inhaler technique. 
  • If your children are sick or exhibiting any symptoms of COVID-19, keep them home from school, and follow provincial healthcare guidelines.
  • Teach your children ways to cope with anxiety, stress, and strong emotions as these can trigger an asthma attack.
  • Ensure your child, and everyone in your household has received their influenza vaccinations.

 Questions? Call the Lung Association and speak to one of our Certified Respiratory Educators to learn more! 1-888-566-LUNG


Photo Credit: Lauren Winter

Page Last Updated: 25/08/2020