If you or someone you love lives with asthma and you've never heard of the term "peak week," stop what you're doing immediately and take note. This crucial time period recently took place across the United States, as this man who lost his wife to an asthma attack noted in public PSA that has gone viral. As you'll soon find, this information could potentially save a life.
You might be familiar with the story of Laura Levis, a Massachusetts woman who died at age 34 as the result of an asthma attack, according to TK. Her husband, Peter DeMarco, has written about the devastating series of events resulting in her death in September 2016 for various outlets, including The New York Times and The Boston Globe.
It was on Sept. 16 that Laura started having an asthma attack, which for her, typically built up slowly in intensity, according to DeMarco's piece in The New York Times. Laura seemingly decided she would be able walk a couple of blocks to the closest hospital, but her attack intensified as she arrived outside of the emergency room.
"What happened to Laura should never have happened to anyone: in the midst of a severe attack, she walked to CHA Somerville Hospital, only to find the door outside the emergency room locked," DeMarco wrote in a recent piece published on WBUR.org. "It was before dawn and she was alone, so she called 911 for help. Due to a shocking series of systemic and individual failures, that help never came."
Three year's after his wife's asthma-related death, DeMarco now hopes to share a crucial bit of information that might have made a difference on that fateful day: Peak week. It refers to one week out of the year that typically sees the most asthma attacks in the United States, according to asthma doctors. That's because the third week in September — the same week Laura died as a result of her asthma attack — is the peak of ragweed season. Ragweed pollen in the air causes those allergic to it to sneeze and cough, and it can trigger asthma attacks as well, according to WebMD.
It doesn't help, either, that September coincides with children returning to school, which can increase their exposure to viruses and other asthma triggers. And although peak week recently ended, September is overall a potentially dangerous month for those who have asthma.
So what can parents do in order to protect their children? Here are a few tips from the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.
- Wash your hands often.
- Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, and nose.
- Avoid people who are sick.
- Remove your shoes before going indoors to avoid tracking in pollen and mold.
- Use a CERTIFIED asthma & allergy friendly air cleaner or filter.
Ahead of peak week, it's also a good idea to schedule an appointment with your child's doctor to review treatment and to make sure you have enough medication, according to Forbes. Keeping doors and windows closed during this time of the year and showering before going to bed can also help kids avoid triggers.
Another good idea? Spread awareness about peak week because as DeMarco noted, not many people have heard of this phenomenon. "The problem is, I don’t believe many people with asthma know about Peak Week," DeMarco wrote on WBUR.org. "Laura and I certainly didn’t."
To me, DeMarco honoring his wife's memory by spreading awareness for peak week is inspiring. And although it's not clear whether this knowledge might have prevented Laura Levis' asthma attack, it could make a difference for the more than 25 million Americans who suffer from asthma. Let's help spread the word!