How to Prepare Your Child With Asthma or Allergies for School
It has been one of the hottest summers on record – and that may have meant health challenges for your child with severe allergies or asthma. With back-to-school just around the corner, you may be worried about how your child will fare during the school year.
Here are my 5 TOP TIPS to prepare everyone for a healthy, happy school year.
1) Prepare the School. Prepare the school with a plan of action in case your child has a life-threatening food allergy reaction or asthma attack during the school day. Describe the signs and symptoms of a reaction or asthma attack to help teachers and school nurses quickly respond. Make sure the school staff responsible for your child knows what to do in an emergency.
Children with food allergies must always have an adult ready to administer an epinephrine injector (EpiPen, Auvi-Q, etc), and children with asthma must have access to an albuterol inhaler. Older children may know how to administer their own medications. However, school policy may require them to have an adult administer medications. Does the school provide this type of training to their staff – or will it be up to you to introduce it?
2) Prepare Your Doctor. Has your child recently seen their allergist? An updated visit to the doctor before school starts is always a good idea, even when the child’s condition has been stable. If it has been a year or more, definitely schedule a follow-up visit. Many things can change in a year!
- Your child is growing, and weight changes may require a change in dosing.
- An updated treatment plan may be needed.
- Also, you can find out if new medications have become available, or you may need to refill expired medications.
If you are keeping up with your child’s appointments with their allergist as directed, kudos! You probably do not need to worry.
3) Prepare the Medications. Going back to school usually puts your child on a new schedule. Here, too, a little advance planning can give everyone more confidence. While most allergy and asthma medications are given no more than twice a day, it can be difficult to coordinate the administration of mid-day or late afternoon doses. Work with the school and your allergist to have your child’s medication delivered correctly and on time – with as little impact as possible on the school day.
Prepare a schedule for your teenage child who has assumed the responsibility of taking their own medications and plan periodic check-in points with the doctor. Teenagers have a lot to remember at school and can forget about medication regimens. If your child’s symptoms get worse, or if you are not refilling their meds as often as expected, you may want to check in to keep them on track.
4) Prepare for Sports and Extracurriculars. A child with asthma or allergies may need special attention when it comes to playing a sport or participating in activities that take place outside the school day. For example, outside play may challenge a child athlete with a severe pollen allergy. Assess the risks and work with your child to allow them to live up to their potential. Are there ways you can optimize their care so they can do their best? Addressing these concerns with your allergist is the first step. There are many ways to keep symptoms under control, including pretreating with medications prior to activities.
It is also vital to understand the sources of allergens. Certain activities, such as pottery making, painting, cooking, horticulture, etc., may expose your child to allergens that can produce hives or other allergic reactions. If this happens after an activity, get your child tested. If the source is identified, you may need to explore treatment options; or as a last resort, your child may need to avoid that activity.
5) Prepare Your Out-of-School time Caregivers. Coordinating your child’s allergy or asthma care while they are not in school, but with other caregivers, is another big issue for parents. A little planning and a lot of communication are the keys to success. Whether it is a friend’s mom carpooling the children to school, a tutor, a babysitter, or a nanny, make sure all caregivers are aware of your child’s medical condition. Provide them with an emergency plan of action. If you don’t have a plan of action, ask your allergist to help create one – or use a template like this one provided by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Having a written plan of action is particularly important for caregivers of small children who may not have the words to say what they are feeling.
Discussing the plan in detail with a caregiver will help you evaluate how capable that person will be in implementing the action plan. If the caregiver is nervous about their ability to recognize the signs of distress and confidently administer emergency medication, put secondary measures in place. For example, you could consider preparing all your child’s food in advance to decrease the likelihood of accidental exposure. Or, for the benefit of all, you may choose to seek another caregiver. Most importantly, caregivers should know whom to contact – and in what order – in an emergency.
- Plan of Action template: https://www.aafa.org/asthma-treatment-action-plan/
- EpiPen: EpiPen
- Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America: https://www.aafa.org