Allergies and the Classroom: A Back-to-School Primer
More than 10 million kids under age 18 have asthma, and 11 percent suffer from respiratory allergies. About six percent have also been diagnosed with food allergies.
According to the Asthma Coalition of Los Angeles County:
- About 1 in 11 children (9 percent) in L.A. County have asthma.
- Asthma rates in L.A. County have gone up over the last decade for both Hispanic and African American children.
- In L.A. County, African American children have the highest rates of asthma (25 percent) compared to Hispanic children (8 percent), non-Hispanic White children (7 percent) and Asian/Pacific Islander children (4 percent).
According to the Los Angeles Breathmobile Program, low-income and uninsured residents are disproportionately affected by asthma because they do not have access to preventive and ongoing medical care, often relying on episodic and urgent care for acute asthma attacks.
On any given day, more than 10,000 kids nationwide miss school due to asthma, adding up to millions of lost days every year.
On any given day, more than 10,000 kids nationwide miss school due to asthma.
"Parents need to be advocates for their kids, to help ensure they're breathing well with clear minds, and able to navigate the triggers that sometimes stand in their way," said allergist Michael Foggs, president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, or ACAAI. "If kids are having difficulty breathing, are sneezing, have runny noses and itchy eyes, and haven't slept well the night before, they won't perform at their best."
Following are some tips from ACAAI to help children enjoy healthy, symptom-free days in the classroom:
- If you suspect your child may have allergies or asthma, make an appointment with a board-certified allergist. An allergist will put together an allergy action plan for your child by pointing out triggers, and helping them understand what causes their symptoms. Studies show that children with asthma under the care of an allergist have a 77 percent reduction in lost time from school.
- Make an appointment with your child's teacher and/or school administrator to walk through the classroom to look for triggers such as a classroom pet, pollen and dust. Be aware that classmates with a pet at home can also trigger an allergic reaction in your little one, since these allergens can be transferred to school via clothing and backpacks. If your child is coughing, having difficulty breathing, has a rash, runny nose or is sneezing, it may be an allergic reaction to something at school and he or she may need medication.
- Share your child's treatment plan with school staff. It needs to include a list of substances that trigger your child's allergies or asthma, and a list of medications taken by your child.
- Discuss how to handle emergencies. Since 2010, all 50 states have laws protecting students' rights to carry and use asthma and anaphylaxis medications at school. Children who are at risk for a life-threatening allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) also should have epinephrine to use to prevent the dangerous reaction that may be caused by allergies to certain foods or insect stings. Be sure your child and school staff know how to use emergency medications.
- If your child has food allergies, he or she should bring a bagged lunch to school every day and avoid sharing food, napkins and utensils with others.
Every child wants to feel their best at home and at school. You can help your kids this fall by being prepared. The more they know how to control symptoms, the better equipped you all are when faced with obstacles.
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