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Vital Signs: Back To School And Misery With Asthma


Along with the return to school across the country, each September also brings an annual spike of asthma attacks to emergency rooms. The two are related.  Dr. Stephen Mueller, a pulmonologist with Methodist Charlton Medical Center, explains how in this installment of KERA’s Vital Signs.

Three Causes of the September Spike

  1. Pollens and heat.  We think of fall as the beginning of cooler temperatures, but Dr. Mueller says the heat that helps keep pollutants active often continues well into September. That plus fall pollens like ragweed increase problems for asthmatics and others with respiratory problems.
  2. Bacteria and viruses love crowds. School brings kids in close contact with each other – an easy way to spread germs, like common colds. Colds are a major trigger for asthma in young children.
  3. The summer honeymoon’s over for medication. Muller says some people aren’t as diligent with their asthma medication in summer for various reasons: Not every asthmatic takes medicine all the time. Some get frustrated with their medicine. Some get busy with life and summer activities and forget to take their medication. Mueller recommends a fall wellness check for a current assessment of your asthma.

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Sam Baker is KERA's senior editor and local host for Morning Edition. The native of Beaumont, Texas, also edits and produces radio commentaries and Vital Signs, a series that's part of the station's Breakthroughs initiative. He also was the longtime host of KERA 13’s Emmy Award-winning public affairs program On the Record. He also won an Emmy in 2008 for KERA’s Sharing the Power: A Voter’s Voice Special, and has earned honors from the Associated Press and the Public Radio News Directors Inc.