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Special Considerations for the Allergic Child at School

Allergies and Asthma at School

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Updated September 10, 2013

Updated September 10, 2013

Preparing for School

It is best to have a plan in place to treat a child’s asthma and allergies before the school year starts. This may include a meeting between the parent and child’s teacher, school nurse, cafeteria staff and school principal. The meeting should cover the child’s medical problems, need for medications, and special instructions (such as dietary limitations in the case of food allergy). The school may have a policy for what needs to be done before medications can be given to a child while at school (such as a form for your doctor to sign).

Educational materials are available to help school nurses deal with all aspects of a child’s allergies.

Asthma

All asthmatic children should have the ability to receive rescue medication for their asthma at school should it be needed. Depending on the age of the child, severity of asthma, and school policy, the medication may be kept with the school nurse, inside the classroom with the teacher, or with the child. Involve the child’s physician in this decision, as it will be an individualized choice.

Many schools require an action plan to determine when, what and how much medication to give to a child with asthma. Make sure that the child’s physician is involved in filling out these forms. Here is an example of a form to consider using: Asthma Action Plan

Asthma is most likely to flare at school during exercise, when exposed to allergens outside or in the classroom, or when the child is sick. If the classroom has a chalkboard, the chalk dust may be an irritant causing increased asthma symptoms. If this is the case, the child may need to sit away from the board, avoid the chalkboard erasers and wash his or her hands after handling the chalk. Consider avoidance measures for other indoor allergens.

Outdoor activities may also flare a child’s asthma. This may be due to cold air, exercise or outdoor pollen and mold exposure. Your child’s physician may recommend the use of a rescue medication prior to exercise or strenuous outdoor play, or additional allergy or asthma medications during seasonal allergy time.

Allergic Rhinitis

Nasal allergies do not typically require a school action plan to treat, unless a child’s allergies are severe. Avoidance measures for indoor allergens should be followed, and medications for allergic rhinitis can be given at home before school. Check with your doctor if you feel your child may need additional allergy medications to be administered at school.

Food Allergies

A child with food allergies should have a complete action plan in place at school in the event of accidentally eating the food to which they are allergic. Talk with your child’s doctor about filling out this plan for the school. In addition, careful planning with the teacher, school nurse and cafeteria staff is needed to ensure that the culprit food is avoided. The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network offers guidance on food allergy programs for schools and is a valuable resource for helping parents cope with a child’s food allergies.

It is very important to have injectable epinephrine available at the school to treat a severe food allergy if there is an accidental ingestion. Depending on the age of the child, severity of food allergy, and school policy, the epinephrine may be kept with the school nurse, inside the classroom with the teacher, or with the child. Involve the child’s physician in this decision, as it will be an individualized choice.

Venom and Stinging Insect Allergy

If a child is allergic to a stinging insect, such as bees or fire ants, then it is important to have injectable epinephrine available at the school to treat an allergic reaction if the child is stung. Depending on the age of the child, severity of past reactions, and school policy, the epinephrine may be kept with the school nurse, inside the classroom with the teacher, or with the child. Involve the child’s physician in this decision, as it will be an individualized choice.

Sources: American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network.

DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this site is for educational purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for personal care by a licensed physician. Please see your physician for diagnosis and treatment of any concerning symptoms or medical condition.

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