Just when most kids are putting their tissue boxes away for the winter, the wheezers in the crowd are grabbing their inhalers to get through spring — a peak season for asthma sufferers. Pollen from trees and grass, outdoor exercise, and a lingering chest cold are well-known asthma triggers this time of year.
But there are a couple lesser-known triggers that can lead a child’s airways to narrow, swell and twitch, causing coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness. If your child is an asthma sufferer, you should also be wary of:
- Outside play on very sunny days and cloudy, windless days. These weather conditions contribute to “bad” or ground level ozone, which is known to aggravate asthma. Bad ozone is the pollution that forms when sunlight reacts with factory and car exhaust, and other pollutants. When there’s no breeze to keep these pollutants moving, the ozone conditions are even worse. When your child breathes heavily during exercise, these pollutants can be pushed down into the lining of his lung and trigger asthma flare-ups. Look up your local Air Quality Index forecast and talk to your child’s doctor about how to manage asthma on days when air quality is poor.
- Spending too much time indoors. Spending excessive time playing indoors is associated with increased asthma attacks, and might actually lead to the development of asthma. It turns out that being inside exposes kids to higher amounts of outdoor pollutants than if they were playing outside! “What’s outside doesn’t stay outside — the pollutants come inside and become more concentrated in a closed environment,” explains Tyra Bryant-Stephens, MD, medical director of CHOP’s Community Asthma Prevention Program. If pollen is a trigger for your child, talk to your doctor about the best balance of indoor and outdoor play.
Know your child’s asthma triggers — and avoid them — to keep his condition under control.