Back to School Action Plan for Allergies and Asthma

Back to School Action Plan for Allergies and Asthma

As the final days of summer break come to a close, families everywhere are preparing for children to return to school. Whether this is the first year a child is heading to school or the last, it is an exciting time for both children and parents. It can, however, also be a time of anxiety for a parent worried about a child’s asthma or allergy conditions. Below are some ways to prepare and communicate these concerns, and  back to school excitement.

Make a Plan

Schedule an appointment with your child’s healthcare provider in the weeks leading up to the first day of school. During this appointment, discuss overall heath as well as specifics regarding allergies, food allergies, or asthma. This is also a great opportunity to request that the healthcare provider refill any asthma or allergy medications. The provider can complete medication permission forms required by the school nurse during your visit. It is important the school nurse can quickly and easily confirm the medication you provide is:

  • non-expired
  • prescribed for your child
  • has clear directions on when, how, and how much to take

This is also the time to request your provider complete any additional forms required by the school. Examples are asthma action plans, anaphylaxis action plans, and food allergy alert plans with avoidance and substitution information. If your child is in their first year or is entering a new school, it is important to contact the school nurse directly. Also, if your child has complex requirements or action plans, you should visit with the school nurse yearly about their daily requirements. The nurse can discuss accommodation options available for children at the school. Other important policies to discuss include asthma inhalers, epinephrine auto injectors, classroom parties, field trips, and cafeteria rules.

Classroom Action

Back to School with Allergies and Asthma
Back to School with Allergies and Asthma

The classroom can be a source of exposure for children with allergies to dust mites, mold, and animal dander. Communicate with your child’s teacher about allergy triggers for their symptoms and what common symptoms to look out for. Don’t forget to ask if the classroom will have a resident pet. If so, what type of animal and any requirements that the pet come home with your child may be important. It is also important to understand if the school has air conditioning or if windows are typically opened on nicer days. If windows must be opened, then you can prepare your child accordingly with additional symptom control medication.

During your initial meeting with the teacher, you can begin setting appropriate expectations. Discuss things such as asthma action plans and any potential limitations for recess or physical education. Also, anaphylaxis action plans for food or stinging insects and any food avoidance requirements should be covered. You will feel confident knowing both the school nurse and teacher are fully informed of your child’s needs. The school nurse and teacher should have a consistent plan for where inhalers and epinephrine auto injectors are stored. Also confirm that there is a plan for administration of medication in a time of need. It is a good idea to ask about substitutes or classroom aides/parent volunteers confirm they are made aware of your child’s needs.

When to Stay Home

During a regular year it is often a challenge to decide when it is or is not appropriate to send a child to school with cold-like symptoms. That can be even more complex for a parent if your child has allergies or asthma. In this unique time when COVID-19 is still a major focus, another layer of complexity is added.

For children with asthma, it is safe to attend school with mild wheezing that occurs infrequently and is quickly resolving with the use of albuterol. However, it is appropriate to keep your child home from school if:

  • they experience difficulty sleeping due to respiratory symptoms
  • require albuterol every 4 hours to relieve them of things like wheezing, shortness of breath, or chest tightness
  • have respiratory symptoms that are failing to resolve with albuterol use

Make sure to always inform the school nurse and the child’s teacher of any recent asthma exacerbations and how it was treated. Communicate any continued treatment if applicable.

If your child has an allergic reaction, make sure to inform the nurse. Also update the nurse on the allergen trigger if known, how the reaction was treated, and any ongoing treatment.

Wishing all the children a safe, healthy, and prosperous new school year!

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Amanda Hofmann, MPAS, PA-C, is a graduate of Duquesne University, in Pittsburgh, PA. After spending 8 years in clinical practice, she joined United Allergy Services where she is currently the Vice President of Clinical. Amanda is also the past president of the Association of PAs in Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. 

United Allergy Services is also on FacebookLinkedInor TwitterSee other interesting and related articles on the UAS Blog.


Independence from Summer Allergies

Tips for independence from summer allergy concerns
Summer Allergy relief tips

The Fourth of July is only one week away and that likely means many are making or finalizing plans to be outside. Are you planning to be the grill master? How about the fireworks expert? Maybe you are the ultimate host of the celebration surrounded by family and friends enjoying fireworks, picnics, swimming, and outdoor activities. Here are some of the most common summer allergy tips to for attending Fourth of July celebrations. After all, it is your right to have independence from summer allergies!

Number One Summer Allergy: Grass Pollen 

During the summer months, many allergy sufferers are wary of grass pollen. They are the most common seasonal allergy triggers and are heaviest in May through August. Those that suffer from grass pollen allergies can benefit from checking their local pollen counts daily. Pollen counts tend to be the highest early in the day or as the wind picks up just before a large rainstorm.

Also, try to offer guests an indoor option during your outdoor celebration if possible. Try to offer a portion of the area where guests can sit away from tall/dense grass or shrubbery. Another options would be a non-grass surface like a deck or patio. To avoid bringing those pollens inside after a great celebration, take a shower or bath before hopping into bed. This will help rinse off any sticky allergens stuck to your body or hair before they stick to your bedding.

Summer Skin Allergy: Sunscreen Reactions

Many celebrations occur outside or around the pool, so sunscreen is important to discuss. While sunscreen is a crucial part of summer safety, sometimes it can cause a reaction much worse than a sunburn. A contact allergy to the sunscreen may present as a rash appearing where it was applied. Or it could be a reaction that appears after applying the sunblock and being exposed to the sun.

To avoid a sunscreen reaction, apply a quick and simple patch test before applying the product to your whole body. Decide on a small area, like the wrist, and apply the product. Wait at least 24 hours to make sure the skin does not react.

Summer Venom Allergy: Stinging Insects

Similar to sharing the festive star-spangled celebrations with pollen and sun, consider insects as well. We know stinging insects such as bees, wasps, hornets, and yellowjackets are most active during summer and early fall. Also, fire ants are active all year round in many southern parts of the United States.

For many of us stings and bites can be uncomfortable and painful. However, there are many picnic guests that have life-threatening reactions that can result from a sting or bite. People who know they are at risk should always carry two doses of auto injectable epinephrine. They should have the ability to access it within 60 seconds if necessary. Try to avoid the stings and bites before they occur by refraining from walking outdoors barefoot, especially in grassy areas. Another helpful trick is to skip perfume or sweet-smelling body sprays or lotions. Also, drinking from cans or bottles that have sat open and unattended should be avoided because sometimes insects can be an unpleasant surprise. Finally, when choosing the perfect outfit for the holiday weekend, leave your vivid, floral clothes in the closest.

Summer Asthma Concerns

When we think of the Fourth of July, firework displays lighting up the sky quickly come to mind. Fireworks, although beautiful and breathtaking, can create smoke and small particulate matter. This can trigger asthma for some, taking their breath away in a not so enjoyable way. If you suffer from asthma, consider watching the fireworks from an indoor location. Similar to fireworks, smoke from grills, bonfires, firepits, or outdoor fireplaces can also trigger asthma for some. Try to avoid the direct smoke pathway and leave significant distance between yourself and the source of the smoke.

Other scented products utilized during outdoor gatherings can also contribute to air pollution and can also trigger asthma. If hosting a party, it would be helpful to contact your guests and ask if certain things like scented insect repelling candles, scented tiki torch oil, odor hiding fragrances or air fresheners trigger any negative responses for them.

If there is a swimming pool, remember that while chlorine isn't an allergen, it is an irritant and can cause problems with eye and nose itching. It can also cause breathing problems in people with asthma. If undesired symptoms are occurring while swimming, jump out, take off your suit and washing the affected area with clean water and soap to remove traces of the remaining irritant. You should have a rescue inhaler on hand, if prescribed to you, to calm any respiratory symptoms should they occur.

Summer Food Allergy Considerations

Finally, what would a summer celebration be without all the tasty food and drinks? If food allergies are present, it can make attending picnics and barbeques easier to pack your own meals or snacks to have readily available. Preparing food, yourself is always the safest option, however, it may not be feasible may not allow you to feel you are enjoying all the perks of a summer celebration. It is helpful as a host to ask about any food allergies or dietary restrictions when inviting guests to the event. It is also very helpful to label what individual dishes or offers are and include a high-level recipe or ingredient list. That way guests can privately identify safe selections off the menu in and will allow them to enjoy immersing themselves in the full experience without the worry of unknown exposure.

Amanda Hofmann, MPAS, PA-C, is a graduate of Duquesne University, in Pittsburgh, PA. After spending 8 years in clinical practice, she joined United Allergy Services where she is currently the Vice President of Clinical. Amanda is also the past president of the Association of PAs in Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. 

United Allergy Services is also on FacebookLinkedIn, or Twitter. See other interesting and related articles on the UAS Blog.