Asthma exacerbations increase in September coinciding with children returning to school. The aim of this study was to investigate whether this occurs 1) for COPD and respiratory tract infections (RTIs); 2) after school resumes in January and March; and 3) identify which viruses may be responsible.
Emergency department (ED) visits and admissions for asthma, COPD and RTIs and the prevalence of viruses in Ontario, Canada were analysed daily between 2003 and 2013. ED visits and admissions were provided by the Canadian Institute for Health Information. Viral prevalence was obtained from the Centre for Immunisation and Respiratory Infectious Diseases.
ED visits and admissions rates demonstrated a biphasic pattern. Lowest rates occurred in July and August and the highest rates in September for asthma, and after December for COPD and RTI. The increase in rates for 30 days before and after school return in September was greatest for children with asthma <15 years (2.4–2.6×). Event rates fell after school return in January for all three conditions ranging from 10–25%, and no change followed March break for asthma and COPD. Human rhinovirus was prevalent in summer with a modest relationship to asthma rates in September. The prevalence of respiratory syncytial virus, influenza A and coronavirus was associated with sustained event rates for COPD and RTIs.
Asthma, COPD and RTIs increase in September but do not occur after return to school in January and March. Human rhinovirus is associated with ED visits and admissions only in September.