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Getting ready for back to school 2020

September Spike can be a challenging time of the year for parents of all children with asthma. This year, that challenge is even greater due to COVID-19. What may add to the stress even more is that there are still many uncertainties and unknowns. Some parents will send their children back to school, while others will participate in online learning.

Likewise, not all children will be required to wear a face mask. It’s a challenging time, but we are here to help.

What is September Spike?

When children and 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

If your child is returning to school this September, here are some tips to make the transition as easy as possible.

  • Develop or update a written Asthma Action Plan with your family doctor or healthcare provider and make sure to share a copy with your child’s school and teacher. If your child doesn’t currently have an Asthma Action Plan, make an appointment with his or her healthcare provider to create one as soon as possible.
  • Speak with your child’s school about its asthma policies including inhaler use and ensure it has policies in place to create a trigger-free environment for learning, exercise, and play. Always ensure that your child has his or her rescue medication on hand at all times.
  • Ensure that your child takes his or her asthma controller medication throughout the year, even when symptom-free. Make sure your child is taking asthma medications as prescribed and don’t stop unless advised by their healthcare provider to do so.
  • Schedule regular asthma check-ups with your healthcare provider to ensure your child’s asthma is properly controlled. It’s especially important to have a checkup right before back to school season. Ensure your healthcare provider reviews your child’s inhaler technique.
  • Make sure you refill or renew your child’s asthma medication prescription. We recommend having a 30-day supply of medication on hand.
  • Identify your child’s asthma triggers and teach them how best to avoid them.
  • Teach your child what to do in case of an asthma attack.
  • Help your child understand their asthma, including teaching them how to use their medications properly. Review their inhaler technique. Make sure they know how to use their Asthma Action Plan.
  • If your children are sick or showing any symptoms of COVID-19, keep them home from school and speak with your healthcare provider.
  • Teach your children ways to cope with stress and anxiety as strong emotions and anxiety can trigger an asthma attack.
  • Ensure your child, and everyone in your home has received their influenza (flu) and pneumococcal disease vaccinations.

Special considerations for COVID-19

As schools reopen during COVID-19, there will be new aspects of asthma management to consider. Safety measures including, masks, physical distancing and increased cleaning will all impact the way schools operate and how we keep our community safe.


If your child will be required to wear a face mask, there are a number of things to consider.

Tips for Wearing Masks:

  • Try different types of mask materials and styles. Some masks fit more snugly than others and some materials may feel more comfortable or be more breathable.
  • Do not share masks or face coverings.
  • Help your children adjust to wearing a mask: have them wear it around the house for 20 minutes to give them time to adjust to how it feels.
  • There is no recommended “best mask” for people with asthma. You should experiment to find the mask material that works best for your child: cloth masks, bandanas and scarfs may all be options.
  • Pack a spare mask in case your child’s mask becomes soiled or wet during the day.
  • Teach your child how to properly take on and off the mask.


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 warm water, 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 to put in your child’s backpack?

  • A copy of your child’s Asthma Action Plan
  • Your child’s rescue inhaler (with spacer, if used)
  • Well-fitting cloth face mask
  • Tissues
  • Hand sanitizer

Other resources:

Refer to your local health authorities and school boards to ensure you are well-informed. Speak with your child’s healthcare provider if you have questions or concerns.