Know Your Child’s Triggers
It’s been a hot summer, and it’s possible your kids have spent hours in a pool or lake trying to beat the heat. The thought of returning to classrooms – and keeping allergies and asthma at bay – may not be top of mind right now, but it is important to prepare.
“The start of a new school year is exciting for some, but for parents of children with allergies and asthma, their thoughts are probably on keeping their child free from triggers that can cause allergic reactions,” says allergist Kathleen May, MD, president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI). “Allergies and asthma can significantly impact a child’s well-being and academic performance, but with proper preparation and management, they can thrive in the school environment.”
ACAAI provides the following four tips for getting your child with allergies or asthma off to a smart start this school year.
- What’s causing the sneezing and wheezing? – The first step in managing allergies and asthma is identifying the specific triggers that affect your child. Common triggers include pollen, mold, dust mites, pet dander, and certain food allergens. Work with your child’s allergist to make sure you have the proper treatments in place. A visit to the allergist before school starts will ensure your child has the proper dose of prescriptions for their weight and age. Identifying triggers allows parents and school staff to create a targeted management plan.
- Share your action plan – Your child’s targeted management plan, created with your child’s allergist and others in their healthcare team, should outline symptoms, medications, emergency contacts and steps to take in the event of flare-ups. Once completed, share the action plan with the school nurse, teachers and other staff to ensure everyone is prepared to respond effectively in case of an emergency. Try to meet with school staff before the school year begins to make sure the plan is in place on day one.
- Make lunchtime safe – Depending on your child’s age, they may be skilled at identifying their food allergens and letting others know what they can and cannot eat if they have a food allergy. If you pack your child’s lunch or they pack their own, make sure they know they shouldn’t share food brought by their friends. If they eat food prepared in the cafeteria, let cafeteria staff know about your child’s food allergies to avoid cross-contamination during mealtimes. Encourage your school to label food options so your child can choose wisely. Make sure your child’s epinephrine auto injector (and a spare) are available if needed.
- Keep kids active at recess and during sports – Participating in physical activities is essential to well-being for all kids. If your child has asthma or reacts to outdoor allergens, make sure they’ve taken their allergy medicine before leaving for school, and are carrying any relief inhalers they may need. If pollen counts are high, or air quality is bad, consider seeking indoor opportunities for them to participate in. Alert coaches about your child’s asthma and let them know what needs to happen should a flare occur.
If your child’s allergy and asthma symptoms are holding them back in school, make an appointment with an allergist for proper testing. An allergist can help your child live the life they want. Use the ACAAI allergist locator to find an allergist in your area.
Source: ACAAI, August 2023