As we near the end of May, which is Asthma Awareness Month, the countdown to summer vacation has begun for many families with school-aged children.
Unfortunately, for children with asthma, the warm summer months are anything but carefree. Pennsylvania resident Claudia Ramos constantly worries about her 12-year-old son Jesse's health when temperatures rise toward the end of the school year and throughout the summer months.
Jesse was diagnosed with asthma when he was just 18 months old. For kids like Jesse, breathing ozone pollution—often called smog—is risky business, because it can trigger severe asthma attacks, disrupt healthy lung development and even kill.
Warm, sunny weather increases the risk of ozone formation, which is why summer is often thought of as ozone or "smog" season.
Since her son's diagnosis, Jesse's mother has gone to great lengths to limit asthma-related emergency room visits by working to minimize his exposure to potential asthma triggers.
"Inside our home—we have no carpeting; we have blinds instead of curtains; stuffed animals are kept in plastic containers; and we have no pets," says Claudia. "We have implemented healthier diet changes for weight loss and better nutrition. This all helps to some degree, but I cannot control the quality of air Jesse breathes when he steps outside."
"We attend outdoor events in the early morning or evening when pollen and ozone levels tend to be lower, and we avoid walking long distances outdoors," explains Claudia. "Jesse uses an inhaler before he exercises; his swimming lessons are time limited; and we even consider local air quality and temperature when we plan the destinations of our family vacations."
Claudia's daily asthma management rituals are characteristic of so many parents in her shoes. Raising a child with asthma requires a strict daily routine to help their children avoid triggers that could cause an asthma attack. For many parents of children with asthma, their daily routine might look something like this:
Check air quality forecast
Write note to teacher and school nurse to excuse child from recess if air quality is poor
Administer nebulizer treatment and other asthma medications
Double check backpack to ensure easy inhaler access during the school day
Dust and vacuum while child is at school to limit particles in the air upon their return home that could trigger an asthma attack
Coordinate weekend play date and walk supervising parent through son or daughter's doctor prescribed asthma action plan.
Launder bedding to limit dust mite exposure, a known asthma trigger
Receive call from school nurse requesting asthma medications to be replenished
Refill prescription and deliver to school
Pick up child from school to limit outdoor activity due to afternoon air quality concerns
Have child change clothes upon arriving home to avoid bringing outdoor allergens into the home
Launder clothes in hot water
Administer nebulizer treatment
Facilitate indoor play activities due to poor air quality
Clean up kitchen using asthma-friendly products
Provide homework assistance
Administer nebulizer treatment and other required medications
Kids with Asthma Need a Prescription for Healthy Air
Parents can somewhat control the home environment that parents to help limit their children's exposure to asthma triggers, but poor outdoor air quality is something that can undermine the efforts of the most diligent parent.
Cleaning up ozone pollution will help ensure every child has a healthier start regardless of whether they have asthma. Children are at greater risk from ozone pollution compared to adults, because they breathe faster and their lungs are still developing.
Long-term ozone pollution exposure can cause children to endure a lifetime of lung health challenges. We owe it our children to reduce ozone pollution, so children like Jesse can have the freedom to enjoy more summer afternoons spent playing outdoors.