Back to School With Allergies and Asthma August 2, 1999
MILWAUKEE - In the United States, more than 4.8 million children suffer from asthma while six million battle allergic rhinitis ("hay fever"). Together they account for more than 10 million missed school days and millions of dollars in medical costs and lost work days for parents. As the time to go back to school draws near, the parents of the 10 million plus children suffering from allergic disease may be apprehensive about the effects of the classroom on their child's asthma or allergies. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI) offers the following advice to concerned parents to ensure a safe and healthy back to school season. For children with allergies:
Before school starts, tour the school to identify potential asthma/allergy triggers in the classrooms. Ask staff about school policies regarding foods brought into the classroom and animals in the school.
Sometimes children are not able to express in words that their allergies are acting up. Monitor bouts of irritability, temper tantrums, or decreased ability to concentrate in school - symptoms of allergic irritability syndrome are often caused by nose, ear and sinus congestion in allergic children.
Inform staff of the child's allergies. If symptoms flare up at school, it may be the result of exposure to environmental allergens such as animal dander brought in on the clothing of pet-owning classmates or mold growth in the school building. Try to understand when and where symptoms worsen and work with the school to implement control measures.
According to the AAAAI Position Statement "Anaphylaxis in schools and other child-care settings," food allergic children who have been prescribed epinephrine should provide the school with an identification sheet with the child's name, photo, and specific allergy for distribution to appropriate personnel. Staff should be taught how to administer an epinephrine shot in the event of an emergency.
Parents of food allergic children should work with the school to establish a no-food trading policy.
For children with asthma:
Find out if your child's school allows them to keep inhaled medications in their possession. According to the AAAAI position statement "The Use of Inhaled Medications in School by Students with Asthma," students with asthma should be permitted to have inhaled medications in their possession for the treatment and the prevention of asthma symptoms when they are prescribed by that student's physician.
If your child has exercise induced asthma, make sure that coaches and gym teachers are familiar with your child's condition and doctor's recommendations regarding pretreatment and acute or emergency asthma treatment. Include phone numbers to call with questions or in case of an emergency.
Talk to your child about knowing his or her own limits. Children need to know that it is important to respond to their asthma symptoms immediately and not ignore an asthma attack.
Information and communication are the most important tools in effective management of allergic disorders. The AAAAI offers several resources to achieve this goal and attain optimal patient care. The Academy's Web site, located at www.aaaai.org, offers information about the diagnosis and treatment of allergic disease, including Spanish and English versions of the "Tips to Remember" brochure series. Children's coloring pages featuring the "Sneeze 'N Wheeze Busters" are also available. The Physician Information and Referral Line, 1-800-822-2762, provides callers with a listing of allergists in their area and free brochures from the AAAAI's public education brochure collection. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology is the largest professional medical specialty organization in the United States representing allergists, asthma specialists, clinical immunologists, allied health professionals, and others with a special interest in the research and treatment of allergic disease. Allergy/immunology specialists are pediatric/internal medicine physicians who have elected an additional two years of training to become specialized in the treatment of allergy, asthma, and immunologic disease. Established in 1943, the Academy has over 6,000 members in the United States, Canada and 75 other countries.
Editor's Note: Position statements serve as the official consensus statement of the AAAAI. Once a final version of a position statement is approved by the AAAAI's membership, Board of Directors, and legal counsel, the statement is published as the official opinion of the AAAAI in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology and then distributed to the public. For a copy of the AAAAI position statements mentioned above, visit www.aaaai.org or call 414/272-6071.
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