Three Tips for Keeping Kids’ Allergies and Asthma Under Control this School Year
Preparation, information, and communication are the keys to fighting off allergy and asthma trouble, and keeping your kids healthy when they return to school.
If you are the parent of a child with asthma and/or allergies, you know that the onset of a new school year brings on additional stresses, apart from just going back-to-school shopping or having to get your kids ready in the morning. When your children go back to school, they come into contact with more kids and allergy triggers than they do over the summer.
According to Dr. Nora Lin, M.D., Clinical Assistant Professor at Drexel University and private physician at Allergy & Asthma Specialists, allergy and asthma issues cause a lot of difficulty for kids in school. “Congestion can come on gradually, and that can lead to headaches and fatigue, affecting kids’ ability to concentrate in class and pay attention to their teachers.”
School time means that you and your children need to be prepared to properly keep their allergies and asthma under control – both inside and outside of the classroom.
Inform teachers and staff, and tour the school
In order to keep kids healthy when going back to school, it is crucial to prepare beforehand. Ensure that your child has daily access to medication and that you both are aware of the rules and regulations for carrying and administering medication. Also, make sure teachers, school nurses, and other staff are aware of your child’s specific allergy and/or asthma condition.
Dr. Lin advises parents to be in regular contact with their kids’ teachers. “Teachers are a good source of information because they’re observing kids’ interactions and behavior every day,” she says. “Children may not necessarily report back to their parents if they’re experiencing asthma or allergy symptoms, or having trouble concentrating in class.”
Take a tour of the school, as there are a number of everyday allergens lurking around every corner. “Chalk dust and dust from books or classroom signs are very common triggers,” Dr. Lin says. “A lot of schools are also not air-conditioned, so kids with bad allergies should try to sit away from open windows that bring in pollen and mold,” she adds.
If your child has potentially life-threatening allergies – such as allergies to food or bee stings – have a form signed by your doctor notifying school staff, and ensure that epinephrine can be auto-injected in the case of an emergency.
Communicate to your kids the importance of self-care
Sending your children back to school when they have serious asthma and allergy issues can be nerve-wracking, but if you communicate to your kids exactly how to control their condition, you’ll be feeling confident. Make sure they know how to properly use their inhalers and that they take their medication exactly as prescribed, for example. Just missing one dose or treatment can lead to an increase in symptoms, which can affect one’s concentration.
According to Dr. Lin, “Parents should review their kids’ medication plan in preparation for the school year and make an appointment to meet with their allergist.”
If your child has exercise-induced asthma, it is important that they know their limits, along with the signs of an impending asthma attack. Kids should drink plenty of water and use a short-acting inhaler approximately 15 minutes before exercise.
Dr. Lin also emphasizes the importance of a very basic precautionary procedure: hand washing. “Regular hand washing is really the best way to prevent getting sick and minimize lost school time.”
Ensure that asthma and allergies are not impacting sleep
The beginning of school marks the onset of the dreaded alarm clock. Since allergies and asthma can often negatively impact a good night’s sleep, it is important to keep symptoms under control. Research from the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America indicates that a lack of sleep as a result of asthma problems can cause poor recall memory, impaired concentration, and mood disorders.
If your kids are missing sleep due to asthma symptoms, speak with your physician about medications that work overnight. Also, be aware of certain triggers in the bedroom – including mold and dust mites. Keeping the bedroom clean and free of potential triggers will also ensure a healthy night of sleep.
Preparation, information, and communication are the keys to fighting off allergy and asthma trouble, and keeping your kids healthy when they return to school. By keeping yourself, your children, your healthcare providers, and school staff properly informed, you will feel confident sending your children off on the school bus – leaving you and your kids able to focus on their learning.