Allergy and Asthma Control
School supplies? Check. New shoes? Check. Allergies and asthma under control? Let’s go over the list one more time to make sure you and your child are ready for the school year.
Keeping allergies and asthma under control during the school year doesn’t have to be a huge challenge. If you plan in advance and understand the school’s procedures that are in place to keep your child healthy, you’re ahead of the game. Remember to keep communication with the school open and work with your child to know their triggers. If you do, you’ll be off to a great start to the school year.
Below are seven tips to put you at the head of the class when it comes to controlling allergy and asthma.
Questions? Raise your hand – If you need answers to questions about your child’s health, ask now. If an emergency was to happen, who calls 911? What if your child can’t remember how to use their epinephrine auto injector or can’t locate it? Are there stock supplies of epinephrine and asthma medications? Caddo and Bossier Parish public schools should have stock epinephrine auto-injectors immediately available for emergencies. Create a list of questions and take it with you when you meet with the school nurse and teacher.
Make sure a food allergy diagnosis is correct – While about 5 to 8 percent of children have food allergies, many are misdiagnosed due to testing that isn’t called for. That can lead to unnecessarily cutting foods out of a child’s diet, which can negatively affect their nutritional health and lead to unnecessary food anxiety. Blood and skin prick tests are very helpful, but only if your child has already had a reaction to a food, not by themselves. It’s important to work with an allergist to diagnose food allergies. If your child does have a food allergy, make sure the school is fully informed. Work with your allergist and school staff to have an action plan that lists the foods your child is allergic to, what treatment needs to be given, as well as emergency contact information.
ABC, easy as 1-2-3 – Kids with food allergies are often very good at identifying what they can and can’t eat, but it helps if other parents (such as the room parent) and your child’s friends know, too. Your child’s school may have a policy about bringing in treats for special occasions. If they don’t, you’ll want to make other parents and kids aware of what’s off-limits.
Not just on the playground – Unfortunately, school bullying is also common in the lunch room, and kids with food allergies can be the target. Schools should have strong, proactive anti-bullying prevention programs that include a system through which all students learn how to recognize and report bullying related to a possible life-threatening food allergy. The school’s response to food allergy bullying should be made clear at the beginning of the school year and should include education for students. If you suspect your child is being bullied, contact the teacher or the principal.
Are allergens hiding at school? – You probably know where allergens are found in and around your home. There may also be some hidden allergens at school that cause sneezing and wheezing. Your child could be allergic to the classroom pet, or to cat or dog dander that has been carried in on another student’s clothing or backpack. Pollen and dust settle in the classroom, and if not cleaned properly, can set off symptoms. Is the classroom window open? It could be bringing in pollen. If a child says they are coughing during the school day, having difficulty breathing, have a rash, runny nose, or are sneezing, these could be signs they are allergic to something in school.
And out in the field – Physical education class, after-school sports and even playground activities can trigger exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB). Children with asthma and allergies should be able to participate in any sport they choose, provided their allergist’s advice is followed. Asthma symptoms during exercise may indicate poorly controlled asthma. Make sure your child’s coach or physical education teacher knows what to do in case of an asthma-related event.
Consult the expert! Make an appointment with your child’s board-certified allergist before school starts. An allergist can confirm what is causing symptoms and show you how to avoid triggers. For children with especially troublesome allergies, an allergist may prescribe immunotherapy (allergy shots) which can change the course of, and lessen the intensity of, how an allergy develops. If your child takes medicine, their allergist will make sure prescriptions are the right dose for their size and are up-to-date. Kids who have asthma who see an allergist have 77 percent fewer days out of school.
If your child is experiencing allergy and asthma symptoms, make an appointment with a board-certified allergist to develop a treatment plan and eliminate symptoms.
Call 318-221-3584 or visit our website at www.breatheamerica.com to make an appointment, or to find more information on allergies and asthma.
David Kaufman, M.D., is a board-certified asthma/ allergy/immunology specialist at Breathe America, located in Ashley Ridge in Shreveport, as well as an assistant clinical professor at LSUHSC.