You work hard to keep your child's allergies and asthma under control. You clean to get rid of dust mites and pet dander, and you make sure your kids are taking the right medications at the right time. Then you send them off to school and your routine can fall apart, leaving your child with symptoms that aren't controlled.
"Environmental allergens - things like mold, dust mites and dander from the class pet - can all affect your child's allergies and make their symptoms worse," says allergist Bryan Martin, DO, president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI). "There are also many asthma triggers in the classroom, and uncontrolled asthma accounts for almost 14 million lost school days a year."
But there are things parents can do to help prevent their kids from suffering through allergy and asthma attacks. ACAAI offers the following tips:
• As your child whiles away the summer - Make an appointment with the allergist. 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 asthma action plan is up-to-date and that symptoms are under control. Let the allergist know if medications don't seem to be working. If your child is old enough, make sure they know how to properly use any prescribed inhaler device or epinephrine auto injector. Update all prescriptions so you start the year with an A+ grade!
• You teach the teacher - Most teachers have had children in their classrooms who suffer from asthma and allergies. But it's important to work with your child's teacher to help them understand exactly what your child's triggers are, and how to address them. If your child uses medication that needs to be taken during the day, work out a plan with the school administration. Share your child's treatment plan with school staff. It needs to include a list of substances that trigger your child's allergies or asthma, and a list of medications taken by your child.
• Not just on the playground - Unfortunately, school bullying is also common in the lunch room and kids with food allergies can be the target. Schools should have strong, proactive anti-bullying prevention programs that include a system through which all students learn how to recognize and report bullying related to a possible life-threatening food allergy. The school's response to food allergy bullying should be made clear at the beginning of the school year and should include education for students. If you suspect your child is being bullied, contact the teacher or the principal.
• Home away from home - Just as you take measures at home to keep out allergens, talk to the school about what they might do. Suggest keeping windows closed on high pollen days, limiting carpeting in the classroom, fixing leaky faucets and pipes, and installing high efficiency air filters. Let them know that mold around the school can have an adverse reaction on kids with allergies and asthma.
• And out in the field - Physical education class, after-school sports and even playground activities can trigger exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB). Children with asthma and allergies should be able to participate in any sport they choose, provided their allergist's advice is followed. Asthma symptoms during exercise may indicate poorly-controlled asthma. Make sure your child's coach or physical education teacher knows what to do in case of an asthma-related event.
If your child is experiencing allergy and asthma symptoms, make an appointment with a board-certified allergist to develop a treatment plan and eliminate symptoms. To locate an allergist in your area, visit www.AllergyAndAsthmaRelief.org.
American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI)