(ARA) – The new school year means new clothes, new classes, new teachers – and the same old misery for children who have allergies and asthma. It’s such a big problem that asthma-related emergency department visits increase by 46 percent at the start of the school year, and asthma and allergies account for more than 14 million school day absences.
Schools are filled with triggers, from the class hamster to dust mites lurking in the carpet to cold and flu viruses.
“To keep kids focused on their studies instead of their allergy and asthma symptoms, it’s important that they see an allergist for proper diagnosis and treatment, as well as work with their parents to develop a plan for avoiding classroom triggers,” says allergist Dr. Myron Zitt, past president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI).
To help avoid school-related asthma and allergy misery, follow the advice from ACAAI allergist members.
* Steer clear of dust, mold and pollen – Because dust mites and other allergens multiply in the class carpet, suggest your child sit in a chair rather than on the floor during activities. Mold can grow in bathrooms but is easily cleaned if brought to the janitor’s attention. And ask your child’s teachers to keep the windows closed in the fall and spring to keep out sneeze-prompting pollens.
* Get a flu shot – It’s tough for a child with asthma to avoid germs at school so be sure your child gets a seasonal flu shot.
* Prepare for exercise-triggered asthma – Everyday school activities can trigger exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB), commonly referred to as exercise induced asthma. About 80 percent to 90 percent of those with asthma have EIB and 10 percent of people without asthma have it. If your child has difficulty breathing during or after exercise, see an allergist. Be sure to give teachers, from gym to homeroom, a heads up and make sure your child has medication available at school.
* Pass up the class pet – Children with allergies should be reminded not to touch their furry class mascot. Tell teachers to consider a class pet such as fish or a hermit crab, which can offer plenty of learning opportunities without the allergy-triggering dander. Children who have pets at home also may have pet dander on their clothes, triggering symptoms in a pet-allergic child. A new seat assignment may help.
* Be on food safety patrol – If your child has food allergies, it’s important to explain which foods might trigger a reaction and how to ask a teacher or adult about ingredients before eating something questionable. Be sure to alert teachers, scouting and other club leaders and suggest an allergen-free snack policy. Share a plan with teachers, coaches and the school nurse for dealing with an allergic emergency and make sure your child carries medications such as injectable epinephrine.
Studies show patients with asthma who are treated by allergists have better symptom control, including less wheezing and fewer absences, at lower costs.
For more information about allergies in children and asthma in children, as well as to find an allergist nearby who can help you determine if your child suffers from one or both of those conditions, visit www.AllergyAndAsthmaRelief.org.