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UPMC Offers Back-To-School Tips For Controlling Asthma


Back-to-school planning involves a little more than a new iPod, wardrobe updates and visiting the neighborhood grocer for quick-fix snacks when your teenager has asthma, says Sally Wenzel, M.D., director of the Asthma & Allergic Diseases Clinical Research Center at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC).

“Fall allergens like ragweed pollen, other weeds and things that cause hay fever can be asthma triggers,” adds Dr. Wenzel, who also is professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. “So if you have asthma, you need to stay on top of your allergy symptoms with antihistamines and nasal steroids.”

According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, an estimated 20 million people in the United States have asthma, a lung disease in which airways become blocked or narrowed, resulting in breathing difficulty. Asthma accounts for up to 500,000 hospitalizations yearly and is the No. 1 cause of missed school days.

Other asthma control tips include:

Always have a rescue inhaler with you. Put extras where they are handy – for example, in a school locker, car glove compartment, purse, backpack or gym bag.
Make sure your rescue inhalers are filled and functioning.
Check with school officials or the campus health center to clarify regulations on the administration of medicines.
Be aware of possible triggers for asthma flares, including upper respiratory infections and colds. These often are more common when kids go back to school.
In cases of worsening asthma following an upper respiratory infection, treat with prescribed asthma-controlling medications such as steroids and leukotriene modifiers as appropriate.
Get a yearly flu shot.
Make sure your rescue inhaler is within reach during exercise and sports. Take a couple of puffs at least 15 minutes before engaging in physical activity.
See a pulmonary or allergy specialist for a breathing test once a year.
The Asthma & Allergic Diseases Clinical Research Center at UPMC is located on the ninth floor of UPMC Montefiore Hospital, 3459 Fifth Ave. Part of the university’s division of pulmonary, allergy and critical care medicine, the research center is dedicated to improving the understanding of asthma and other airway diseases through clinical studies.


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