Back-to-school season is an exciting time for children and parents but it can also bring lots of anxiety if your child has asthma or allergies.
Increased exposure to new allergens and viruses can trigger asthma or allergy attacks. Doctors have seen increases in asthma-related emergency room visits by children during September, coinciding with back-to-school season.
According to Dr. Mitesh Popat, CEO of Marin Community Clinics and Medical Board Member at Tivic Health, “Kids go from being home during summer break to a new school environment for most of the day, so it’s important to pay special attention to potential allergy triggers such as chalk dust, mold, dust mites from new carpeting, pet dander, or other irritants on their classmates’ clothes and backpacks.
“Recess may be a favorite time of day for many kids, but for those with allergies, it can be a minefield of potential triggers, including plants and trees around the school.
“It can be tricky to identify allergy triggers in a new environment, and there’s also clear evidence of a genetic component here,” continued Dr. Popat. “For instance, it’s possible for kids who’ve had mild allergy symptoms that waxed and waned, to develop more intense symptoms from increased allergen exposure over time, due to genetic predisposition. If both parents have allergies, their kids’ odds go up to 75%.
“We’re also in contact with a lot more environmental substances than in the past – from chemicals in our water, to plastics and other everyday household items – so the immune system overreacts to these external irritants.”
Once you’ve identified the offending allergens, here are some back-to-school tips to help you manage your child’s allergy symptoms:
- Make an appointment with a board-certified allergist to create a treatment plan. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology (ACAAI), studies have shown that children under the care of an allergist have a 77% reduction in sick days.
- Discuss your child’s condition and treatment plan with their teachers and school staff (sports coaches, school nurses).
- Depending on what your child is allergic to, changes such as keeping windows closed on high pollen days, limiting carpet in classrooms, or cleaning up mold can make a difference. (Volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, can sometimes result from new carpeting and cause wheezing and sneezing.)
- Upgraded air filtration systems to reduce the spread of Covid-19 have a secondary benefit for allergy mitigation.
- If the Covid-19 infection rate in your area is high, consider having your child continue to wear a mask.
- On the home front, stay on top of housecleaning – dust and vacuum frequently used rooms, especially your child’s bedroom, wash bedding in the hottest temperature possible, and be sure to replace your home’s HVAC filter.
Dr. Popat adds, “It’s also important to correctly identify allergy symptoms and get tested so they are not mistaken for Covid-19 – given their overlapping similarities. Symptoms such as fever, body aches, and chills are likely not related to allergies.
While it’s not possible to completely eliminate allergen triggers in schools, it’s very important that your child’s allergies have been accurately diagnosed to determine what allergens to avoid.”
Back to School with Allergies and Asthma (American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology)
3 Things to Consider When Determining if Your Child has Allergies or Covid-19 (Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital)
Are Allergies Inherited? (Tivic Blog)