Back to School with Allergies and Asthma
This article has been reviewed by Thanai Pongdee, MD, FAAAAI
The first day of school is an exciting time for children and parents. It can also be a time of anxiety if your child has asthma or allergies.
Before the First Bell Rings
Start preparing before the new school year begins so you can feel confident sending your child off to class. Make sure your child takes his asthma or allergy medications as prescribed. Keep this routine during the summer so doses aren’t missed. Skipping medications can lead to increased symptoms, which often equals less time learning.
Depending on your child’s allergic condition, you may want to:
• Tour the school to identify potential asthma or allergy triggers
• Talk with your child’s teacher(s) and other relevant school personnel (such as sports coaches) about your child’s condition and treatment plan
• If your child is at risk for life-threatening reactions, such as those to food or insect stings, complete an Anaphlyaxis Action Plan and show school staff how to administer autoinjectable epinephrine.
In the Classroom
There are many potential allergy and asthma triggers in schools. It is very important that your child’s allergies have been accurately diagnosed in order to determine what allergens to avoid. If your child has not been tested, make an appointment with an allergist / immunologist.
Common asthma and allergy triggers in the classroom include:
• Dust mites
• Chalk dust
• Animal dander
At Recess, Gym Class and After-School Sports
Recess may be the favorite time of the school day for many children, but for those with allergies or asthma, it can be a minefield of potential triggers.
If your child has allergic rhinitis (hay fever), sign up for regular National Allergy BureauTM pollen count email alerts. When levels are very high, plan accordingly if your child takes medication to control symptoms. When indoors, ask staff to keep windows closed to keep pollen out.
Children with exercise-induced bronchoconstriction may complain about participating in physical activities. However, it is very important for children to stay active, so work with school staff to develop strategies to keep your child symptom-free while exercising. These may include:
• Using a short-acting inhaler 15 minutes prior to exercise
• Drinking plenty of water before, during and after exercise
• Choosing sports that are less likely to trigger symptoms.
Insect bites can cause severe reactions in children with stinging insect allergy. Explain the symptoms to school staff and make sure your child always carries autoinjectable epinephrine in case of an emergency.