Back to school: How parents can help kids with allergies and asthma

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(BPT) - The weeks before school begins are busy for families — full of shopping for supplies and getting ready for the change in routines. Prior to school getting under way is an ideal time to review your child’s needs for coping with allergies and asthma. Keep in mind their needs may change as they get older and move from one environment to another. If your child is dealing with allergies or asthma, you can take proactive steps to help them have the best experience possible this school year.

“Every time your child begins a new school year, it’s a good idea to revisit their allergy or asthma treatment plan with a board-certified allergist,” said American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (ACAAI) president Mark Corbett, M.D. “You can make the most of the new school year by taking a fresh look at your child’s health needs and exploring ways to improve their environment to help them feel their best — at home and at school.”

Here are tips from ACAAI to help your child have a healthy start to the school year.

See an allergist

If you suspect your child has allergies or asthma, make an appointment with an allergist. Board-certified allergists are trained to help you take control of your child’s allergies and asthma so they can live the life they want. An allergist creates an action plan for your child by determining their triggers and helping them understand what causes symptoms. Studies show that children with asthma who are under the care of an allergist have a 77% reduction in sick days.

Even if your child has seen an allergist before, it’s best to update them with your child’s current symptoms and review medications. Allergy and asthma symptoms can change as your child matures, and your child’s growth may also impact their medications and dosages. Schedule an appointment before the school year begins, or as soon as you can.

Find an allergist near you at ACAAI.org/find-an-allergist.

Communicate with the school

Especially if your child is starting at a new school, but even for each new grade, it’s a good idea to talk with classroom staff, administrators and the school nurse. Inform them about your child’s current allergy or asthma treatment plan, and what allergens are concerning for your child. Your child’s teachers need to know about severe allergies your child may have, including pollen, mold, animal dander (in case of a classroom pet) and foods. If your child has food allergies, put a workable plan in place for home-prepared lunches and substitute classroom snacks as needed.

Allergens can hide anywhere in the classroom, through substances in the room like mold, or pollen floating in from an open window, outside on the playing field — or even from classmates’ clothes and backpacks. Monitor changes your child experiences after the school year starts to determine if something at school might be affecting their symptoms.

Speak to school administrators about measures they might take. Depending on what your child is allergic to, changes such as keeping windows closed on high pollen days, limiting carpet in classrooms, fixing leaky faucets and pipes to alleviate mold and installing high-efficiency air filters could make a difference. Let them know that mold in the school can have an adverse effect on kids with allergies and asthma.

Be proactive about viruses

For a child with asthma, contracting any respiratory virus can make their symptoms more serious. Before your child goes back to school, it’s important to remind them to follow healthy practices such as frequent handwashing. Keep your child home when they're sick and make sure everyone in the family is up to date on vaccines, including flu shots and COVID-19 vaccines. If the COVID-19 infection rate in your area is high, consider having your child continue to wear a mask.

Don’t forget the home front

Heading into the colder months, it’s crucial to do a thorough housecleaning, and step up any allergy mitigation measures you may have let slide over the summer. Dust and vacuum frequently used rooms, especially your child's bedroom, then wash bedding in the hottest temperature possible. Also, make sure to replace your home’s HVAC filter. Putting these regular tasks on your calendar can also be a helpful reminder.

Find more helpful information and resources at ACAAI.org.

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