While your kids are home, you can provide a safe environment that limits their exposure to allergens. However, once they start school, their health and abilities will be tested.
There are ways of reducing the chances of getting an allergic reaction while they are at school or outdoors. To help you with this, here are some of the most common allergens kids may come across at school and what you can do to lower their risk of exposure.
Tell your child to let you know if there is anything at school that makes her sneeze, have a runny nose, make her eyes water or itchy or exhibit other similar symptoms. The following are a few examples of allergens typically found in this type of environment:
- Animal allergens – this type of allergen is more prevalent if your child’s classroom houses rabbits, hamsters or similar pets.
- Chalkdust – the dust is more prevalent in classrooms that have chalkboards. This could become a problem if your child is allergic to chalkdust.
- Dust mites – more common in non-air conditioned classrooms.
- Food – foods that can trigger an anaphylactic reaction can vary from one child to another. A prick test is needed to determine which foods the child may be allergic to (e.g. dairy, seafood).
- Mold – in older buildings where there are leaky pipes, mold can develop which can trigger sniffles and breathing problems in children.
- Plant or pollen – more common when your child spends a significant amount of time outdoors or during certain seasons.
As a parent, you can prepare for and preempt possible allergy attacks by coordinating with your child’s teachers and the school.
A few months before the next school year starts, reach out to your child’s school. Talk to the principal and school nurse to discuss your child’s allergies and other medical needs.
Find out if the school has any allergy management program in place and how it is being implemented. You may also need to find out if the teaching and nursing staff are properly trained to handle possible allergy-related situations or emergencies.
In the US, schools will provide you with a series of forms that inform the school about your child’s special medical needs, if the child will be carrying and/or administering her own medication and emergency contact numbers. Check with the school if the pediatrician or family doctor needs to sign these forms as well.
Submit the completed forms before the school year starts. In the case of a food allergy, the information you provide informs staff on what foods should not be offered to your child.
Give the school nurse, your kid’s teachers and other important school staff a reference card that includes details of your child’s allergies. The card should include the following information:
- A list of your kid’s allergies and triggers
- What medications to give in the event of an allergic attack, and the doses
- Any potential allergies to non-prescribed medication
- Contact numbers of both parents or guardians, your child’s pediatrician, the name of the hospital where you want your child to be taken in case of an emergency, and insurance details
Keep the information updated on a yearly basis or if there are any major changes.
Parents can’t protect their kids forever. Kids grow up, and at some point, they will want to live independently. As early as possible, your child will need to start learning how to live and manage their allergies.
Teach your child how to reduce the chances of an allergic attack, what symptoms to look out for, and what to do in case of an attack. With younger children, keep the learning sessions short and informal. You may need to repeat or remind your child on what to do before they master it, and commit it to memory.
Allergic reactions can change how your child interacts with the outside world. By following these tips, you are improving your child’s chances of learning how to live with allergies.