What Makes Fall a Challenging Time for People with Asthma?

asthma fall

More than 27 million people in the U.S. have asthma. And every September, a combination of factors create conditions that make asthma worse. This is why September is called “Asthma Peak Month.” Understanding what causes Asthma Peak Month can help you tackle this challenging season and stay on top of your asthma management. 

What Causes Asthma Peak Month?

Asthma is the leading chronic disease in children and a leading cause of missed days of school. When children return to school, they are exposed to asthma triggers, such as respiratory illnesses, allergens, and poor indoor air quality in school buildings. These factors can increase asthma attacks, emergency department visits, and hospitalizations in September, especially for children. 

Respiratory illnesses, such as the flu, COVID-19, RSV, and colds, also start to spread more during the fall. Respiratory illnesses can trigger asthma symptoms.

Indoor and outdoor mold counts increase in some areas. Fallen leaves can increase outdoor mold, while indoor mold can grow as humidity levels inside increase, and air ventilation decreases. Mold can be both an allergen and airway irritant.

Another factor leading to Asthma Peak Month is ragweed pollen. Due to climate change and warmer temperatures, allergy seasons are lasting longer. Weed pollen season starts in later summer and goes through the fall, with ragweed pollen peaking in mid-September. Ragweed pollen can cause asthma symptoms if you have allergic asthma and are allergic to ragweed. 

Weather can be an asthma trigger. And in late summer and early fall, extreme weather or natural disasters related to climate change can worsen air quality and make it more challenging to control asthma.   

Wildfires specifically are becoming more common, more intense, and more widespread due to climate change and land use changes. Fire seasons are getting longer – they start earlier and end later than in the past. Extreme weather starts and spreads fires. Wildfire smoke can travel hundreds, even thousands of miles. This can impact air quality, which can worsen asthma symptoms. 

Tips for Asthma Management

Although Asthma Peak Month is coming to a close, it is still important to revisit asthma management strategies and to focus on what you can do to keep your asthma under control. 

A good first step is to work with your doctor to develop an Asthma Action Plan. If you already have an Asthma Action Plan, discuss that plan with your doctor to determine what you can do to improve it. Always make sure to follow your Asthma Action Plan.

Next, take steps to address your indoor air quality to reduce asthma triggers in your home. 

  • Homeowners and rental tenants can use AAFA’s Healthier Home checklist to identify areas of their living spaces that may be contributing to asthma. This checklist includes tips to improve your indoor air quality in these spaces. 

  • Use CERTIFIED asthma & allergy friendly® products to help improve indoor air quality and reduce exposure to allergens and airway irritants. These products have been tested against strict scientific standards and only those products that pass the tests will receive the CERTIFIED asthma & allergy friendly® mark. Visit aafa.org/certified to search for CERTIFIED products and learn more about the asthma & allergy friendly® Certification Program.

Policy Solutions

In addition to personal asthma management, public policy can be changed to improve health outcomes for people with asthma. While asthma can affect anyone, it doesn’t affect everyone equally. Social, economic, and environmental factors play a role in asthma outcomes.

As found in the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America’s (AAFA)2020 Asthma Disparities in America report, Black Americans are at higher risk from asthma than white Americans. Black Americans are: 

  • One and a half times more likely to have asthma 

  • Three times more likely to die from asthma 

  • Five times more likely to visit an emergency room due to asthma 

AAFA’s 2023 Asthma Capitals™ report highlights the most challenging places to live in the continental United States for people with asthma. And many of the top Asthma Capitals are facing major challenges and inequities that lead to health disparities.

The Asthma Capitals report outlines these challenges and offers suggestions at both personal and policy levels for addressing these challenges. 

Policy solutions around better health outcomes for people with asthma should focus on funding programs that support asthma control, improving air quality, and providing access to health care.

What Can Be Learned from Peak Month?

The lessons learned from Asthma Peak Month can be applied to improve asthma management all year. Effective management begins with talking to your doctor about your treatment plan. Next, take steps to improve indoor air quality in your home and where you work. Finally, it is important to encourage policymakers to take action to improve living conditions and quality of life for people with asthma. 



This content was developed in partnership with the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA). AAFA is the oldest and largest non-profit patient organization dedicated to saving lives and reducing the burden of disease for people with asthma, allergies and related conditions through research, education, advocacy, and support. Learn more about AAFA at: aafa.org

AAFA offers extensive support for individuals and families affected by asthma and allergic diseases, such as food allergies and atopic dermatitis (eczema). You can join our online patient support community at: aafa.org/join  

Learn more about the asthma & allergy friendly® Certification Program at: aafa.org/certified 

Learn more about AAFA’s Asthma Disparities in America report at: aafa.org/asthmadisparities

Learn more about AAFA’s 2023 Asthma Capitals report at: asthmacapitals.com