As summer draws to a close, you're probably looking forward to familiar fall pleasures such as apple picking, watching football, and of course, going back to school. But for many people, asthma symptoms worsen in September.  In fact, many hospitals report record-high ER visits in September due to asthma.

The Reason for the Peak in Asthma Rates

If you wonder why asthma rates peak in September, you aren't alone. Many people puzzle over the connection, wondering if it could stem from ragweed and other allergens that are prevalent in the air at this time of year. While these allergens certainly don't help the situation, researchers believe the high asthma rates that lead to ER visits can more likely be traced to the start of school. These findings, which were published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology in September 2007, also provide some theories about why going back to school can serve as such a major trigger.

The School Connection

When it comes to September asthma flares, scientists believe the culprit is that after spending a summer with limited contact with germs, students are exposed to the rhinovirus infection in their classrooms. In addition, many asthmatics are lax about using their asthma medications during the summer months, making them especially vulnerable to serious problems from the germs when they return to school.  Other factors that can also make asthma worse include seasonal allergens, contact with dust and mold, cleaning chemicals used in the school setting, and the stress associated with starting new classes. A combination of these triggers can make a bad situation worse.

Age Matters

Researchers who are affiliated with the Firestone Institute for Respiratory Health in Canada discovered that school-age children seem to have the highest rate of seeking medical attention for asthma in September, and also seem to be affected the earliest in the season. Much younger children and adults are also affected, although their symptoms usually come shortly after the older kids.

Scientists suspect that students probably contract the virus first, then pass it on to their family members.

What You Can Do

To help you and your family manage asthma both now and throughout the year, there are several things you can do that will make a difference:

  • Follow your asthma action plan carefully.
  • Make an effort to use your asthma control medications as directed even if you don't feel like you need them.
  • Wash your hands often to stop the spread of germs.
  • If you do come down with a virus or notice worsened  symptoms, see your doctor right away.
  • Ensure that you and family members with asthma have access to fast-acting relief inhalers at all times so you're prepared if and when symptoms start to kick in.


Asthma Society of Canada

Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology

Minnesota Department of Health