Back to school with allergy and asthma
By Mark E. Bubak, M.D.
For students with allergies and asthma, back to school means more than getting their backpacks filled with paper, pencils, and any needed odds and ends. Keeping your child safe and healthy involves creating a proactive plan to be implemented both at home and at school. Allergy doctors refer to these plans as “control programs” because the goal is prevention and control.
Food allergies can cause anaphylaxis, the total body allergic reaction with shortness of breath,
hives, low blood pressure, vomiting, diarrhea, and potentially death. Avoidance is the
treatment. If an accident happens and the student starts to react, it is imperative that
epinephrine is given and the student is taken to the emergency room for ongoing care.
A local, itchy reaction can occur if the allergic student touches the food and the more serious reaction, anaphylaxis can occur if the food is eaten.
Children diagnosed as asthmatics tend to have more frequent issues than food allergic children. Like food allergies, prevention is key. Therefore, the student should take any daily prevention medications at home prior to going to school. Students with allergy eyes and noses should also take their medications before they leave for school to minimize symptoms. If they continue to have symptoms, it is time to see the doctor.
Asthmatics need ready access to a rescue medication such as albuterol to use when they develop their cough, wheeze, or shortness of breath. While at school, students can use their inhaler before strenuous exercise to prevent an attack. A control program should spell out what to do if the inhaler does not work. Most often this will trigger a call to the parents. If the attack is severe, it could mean getting the student to an emergency room. Most asthma flares are triggered by viral infections. Getting the flu shot can reduce the odds of a flareup and staying home during a flareup may be best.
Parents and guardians, be sure to prepare your child’s control program before school starts and share it with the school team. Make sure the student’s medications are present and ready to go. Have the school forms completed by the student’s doctor and remember to get that doctor appointment scheduled early. Talk with your child so they know what to do.
Students with allergy and asthma can expect to fully participate in virtually all school activities including gym class and sporting events. If they are having symptoms, it means the control program needs to be improved and participation continued.
Having the entire team ready is the best way to feel good about sending your children back to school. Working together results in happy, confident, successful students and proud parents!
Mark E. Bubak, M.D. is a contributing Prairie Doc® columnist. He is a board-certified allergist with a practice based in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Follow The Prairie Doc®…based on science, built on trust, at www.prairiedoc.org and on Facebook featuring On Call with the Prairie Doc® a medical Q&A show, broadcast on SDPB and streaming live on Facebook most Thursdays at 7 p.m. central.