MILWAUKEE For children with allergies and asthma, returning to school presents a maze of questions not related to math or science class: Are there peanuts in that birthday treat a classmate brought in? Will the class pet trigger asthma symptoms? Is there mold in the bathroom that will cause sneezing and coughing?
Recognizing these challenges and having a plan for avoiding them will keep students focused on their school work and not their symptoms. Allergies and asthma account for over 14 million missed school days a year, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI).
Challenges facing students range from discomfort that makes it hard to concentrate on school work, to symptoms that reduce their ability to participate in recess or physical education class, to life-threatening reactions to food or insect stings.
"It is important that children and their families work with teachers, coaches and school nurses to deal with allergies and asthma," said Pamela A. Georgeson, DO, Fellow of the AAAAI and member of the AAAAI's Public Education Committee. "Food allergies, asthma and allergic rhinitis are three of the biggest conditions that affect children in school."
The most common allergens at school that may cause an allergic or asthmatic reaction include:
- Dust mites
- Chalk dust
- Animal dander from class pets of pet hair on student's clothing
- Pollen and molds
If your child has food sensitivities, remind them not to share food with their friends. Six foods account for 90% of food allergy in children:
- Tree nuts
- Before school starts, tour the school to identify potential asthma/allergy triggers in the classrooms
- Make sure a "School Management Plan" is on file for your child at school
- Schedule a meeting with teachers and the school nurse to discuss your child's condition
- Encourage children to take their maintenance medications as prescribed
- Review your child's triggers with them and encourage them to ask their teacher for help when symptoms worsen
- If your child is allergic to certain foods, inform school cafeteria staff and teachers to avoid and avoid those and suggest safe alternatives
- Have your food sensitive child bring a bag lunch to school
- Make sure an Epi-pen® is with the child, teacher or school nurse and that they all know how to use it
- Inform physical education teachers and coaches about asthma and warning signs of an exacerbation
- Make sure your child has their medications and peak flow meter with them at school
See an allergist/immunologist
It is important to make sure your child is receiving optimal treatment for their allergies and asthma, especially because symptoms can change over time. An allergist/immunologist will work with you and your child on the four elements of managing allergies and asthma: avoiding triggers in your home, school and other places; using the appropriate medicines; considering allergen immunotherapy, and patient education and follow up. To find an allergist/immunologist in your area or to learn more about allergies and asthma, call the AAAAI Physician Referral and Information Line at (800) 822-2762 or visit the AAAAI Web site at www.aaaai.org.
The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology is the largest professional medical specialty organization in the United States , representing allergists, asthma specialists, clinical immunologists, allied health professionals, and others with a special interest in the research and treatment of allergic disease. Established in 1943, the AAAAI has nearly 6,000 members in the United States, Canada and 60 other countries.