Don’t Let Back to School Mean Back to Allergy and Asthma Symptoms
Prepare now so your child eases into a symptom-free year
For kids with allergies and asthma, summer break from school can also mean a break from their symptoms. When school starts up again in the fall, classrooms are often filled with allergic triggers kids don’t face at home, causing parents to see a return of allergy and asthma symptoms they haven’t seen since school let out for the summer.
In the fall, allergists see an increase in kids’ visits for allergies and asthma because of a combination of factors, and hospitals see what’s known as the “September Spike” because kids who have been off asthma controller medications for the summer start experiencing flare-ups in the fall. When kids return to school they’re exposed to different allergens – in the classroom, out on the playing fields and in the school cafeteria – many that they probably haven’t run into all summer. In addition, it’s ragweed season and for kids who are allergic, it’s a terrible time of year.
Below are five tips from the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology to help your child steer clear of fall allergies in order to focus on classwork and school activities rather than suffering from runny noses, headaches and asthma attacks.
1. Find an allergist, find relief – Well before your child heads into the classroom, make an appointment to see your board-certified allergist. Your allergist will create an allergy action plan for your child by identifying triggers your child may run into and helping them understand what causes their symptoms. Children with asthma under the care of an allergist have a 77% reduction in lost time from school, and an allergist can set your child on the right track, for the long term, to handle their allergies or asthma.
2. Identify potential problems at school – Sometimes parents must act as detectives to root out asthma and allergy triggers at school. Does the school have new carpeting? Sometimes volatile organic compounds (known as VOCs) can result from new carpeting and cause wheezing and sneezing. Are there open windows where pollen can drift into the classroom? Is there a class pet that might be causing allergies? How about mold in the bathrooms? Potential triggers should be discussed with the teacher and school administrators to help ease symptoms.
3. Everyone out on the field! – If your child has asthma or allergies, they should still be able to play any sport they choose as long as they follow their allergist’s advice. While playground games, physical education class, and after-school sports can all trigger exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB), if your child’s asthma is under control, they should be able to participate. Asthma symptoms during exercise may indicate poorly controlled asthma. Make sure coaches and physical education teacher know what to do in case of an asthma-related event.
4. An allergist can confirm a food allergy diagnosis – Parents are sometimes given misinformation about food allergies thanks to home tests and unreliable sources. About 5-8% of children have diagnosed food allergies, and it’s important to work with an allergist to arrive at the diagnosis. If your child does have a food allergy, make sure the school is fully informed. Work with your allergist and school staff to have an action plan that lists the foods your child is allergic to, what treatment needs to be given, as well as emergency contact information.
5. Prep your child – Make sure you’ve discussed how to handle emergencies with your child. No matter what state you live in, your child has the right to carry and use asthma and anaphylaxis medications at school. Children who are at risk of anaphylaxis should have auto-injectable epinephrine available to prevent the severe, life threatening reaction caused by allergies to certain foods or insect stings. Consider getting them a medical alert bracelet. Be sure your child and school staff know how to use emergency medications.
A board-certified allergist is the specialist best trained to treat your child’s allergies or asthma. Work with them to make sure your child’s allergy medications are appropriate for their height and weight, their asthma action plan/food allergy action plan is up-to-date, and that symptoms are under control.
Credit: American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology