September signals the beginning of another school year for students of all ages from preschool through college. Parents and children with asthma and allergies often feel anxious at the thought of returning to school because of the potential for problems relating to their allergies/asthma as well as their ability to participate in school activities.
The start of the new school year also brings exposure to new environments, stress from new activities, the fall allergy season and viral infections. Often, children get viral illnesses at the beginning of the school year, but some of what looks initially like a virus might actually be allergies related to environmental exposures—indoor dust, animal dander or pollen.
Communication and cooperative care between parents, students, teachers, school nurses and your physician’s office will enable your child to attend school regularly and function at an optimal level.
- Educate yourself regarding your school’s policy for medications that may be needed at school, sample questions to ask: what age are students allowed to carry their quick relief asthma inhaler, where will my child’s inhaler be stored, who will make sure my child takes his inhaler if needed?
- Obtain necessary medical paper work from your child’s school, update and take to your child’s health care provider for validating and signing.
- Visit your Allergist/health care provider before school starts to “tune up” your child’s allergies and asthma and to update your child’s asthma/allergy care plan. This plan should contain a maintenance plan as well as an emergency plan should allergies and asthma symptoms increase at school.
- Update and refill all medications that will be required to be kept at school. This could include asthma inhalers, injectable epinephrine, Prednisone and antihistamines.
- Discuss with all your child’s teachers, school administration and the school nurse/health aid, specific triggers and early warning signs and symptoms of deteriorating asthma and allergies.
- If your child has been diagnosed with asthma or has difficulty with increased asthma symptoms during exercise inform teachers regarding your child’s care plan that may require premedication 15 – 20 minutes before exercise.
- If your child has been diagnosed with severe food allergy, inform school if strict avoidance is needed and recognition of symptoms if food is accidentally eaten. Provide EpiPen (emergency injectable epinephrine), Prednisone and antihistamines that your physician has prescribed to be used if needed should accidental ingestion occur. Provide detailed list of foods to be avoided (your allergist’s office can give you a list of foods that contain the allergic food).
- If your child has been diagnosed with a severe reaction to stinging insects inform your child’s school of your physician’s emergency plan for treatment. Provide school with EpiPen (emergency injectable epinephrine and antihistamines as prescribed by your physician.
- Provide your child’s school direction for seeking emergency treatment and adequate phone numbers to reach you the parent.
Parents should be encouraged to communicate with teachers regarding their child’s health issues. Many days, children spend more time face-to-face with their teachers than they do with their parents. Teachers can be on the lookout for symptoms such as repeated coughing or exercise-induced wheezing. Sometimes teachers notice these things before the parents. Effective communication will help your allergy and asthma student function in all phases of his/her school day.