Peak Week Fall Asthma

This week marks the official start of fall, and with leaves beginning to turn it’s definitely feeling like a new season. Unfortunately, however, the third week of September is also known as “peak week” for people with asthma because this particular time of year is when asthma episodes are most intense. Indoor air quality plays an important role for those living with asthma and allergies, and it’s vital to keep indoor air as hygienic as possible to protect people’s health, especially right now in late September.

Why is this such a challenging week for asthma symptoms? It’s a perfect storm of factors—ragweed pollen counts peak in September, and mold counts are rising as leaves begin to fall. On top of that, the return to school in the fall exposes children to many respiratory illnesses that can aggravate asthma conditions, including colds, flu and COVID. 

All of these triggers can lead to increased asthma symptoms, and with hospitals already strained by the pandemic, it’s more important than ever to keep asthma under control and avoid hospitalization.

That’s where indoor air quality (IAQ) comes in. Here are three strategies for improving air hygiene inside the spaces where we live, work and learn:

  1. Use HEPA filters. HEPA filters are the most effective filters for removing pollen, mold, dust and pathogens from indoor air. These are some of the key triggers for people with asthma, so removing them from the indoor environment is a crucial step towards preventing asthma attacks. These particles penetrate deep into our lungs and are dangerous for everyone’s health, and especially for those with asthma. Many HVAC systems cannot effectively run when a HEPA filter is in place, so ensure the highest MERV rating possible for your system. Another consideration is a standalone HEPA filtration unit to be used in bedrooms.
  2. Vacuum after hours. Hoovering up dust from carpeting must prevent asthma attacks, right? Not exactly—the act of vacuuming throws dust and particles into the indoor air, which can irritate people’s airways and aggravate asthma symptoms. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t clean your facility. But it does mean that cleaning carpets in schools or office buildings should take place when students or workers have gone home. Doing so minimizes the risk of irritation or asthma flare-ups during those activities that are meant to create a healthy indoor environment. 
  3. Monitor for air hygiene. It may be peak week now, but air quality issues will linger through the fall and winter, especially as COVID and the flu continue to circulate. It’s only through real-time, continuous monitoring that facilities managers can understand the dynamic changes to their indoor air and can take data-driven actions to improve the air.  Continual monitoring is a long-term solution to help those suffering from asthma not only during September, but throughout the entire year.

If you’re unsure how to make changes to your indoor air, there are experts who can help you get started. The Indoor Air Hygiene Institute (The Institute) has air hygienists who work with facilities managers to understand their IAQ and make science-based decisions on measures to improve air hygiene. Understanding any problem is the key to making the right investments in your indoor air quality, both now as allergens and asthma risks are at their peak and throughout the year. For more information, contact The Institute at [email protected].

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