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.


Summer allergy avoidance tips

Summer Allergy Travel Tips

School is out, summer is in full swing, and it is prime time for summer vacations and traveling. Summer travel with environmental allergies, asthma, or food allergies may make planning a vacation seem like a daunting task. Not to worry! We can show how to keep summer allergy issues at bay during your staycation, beach trip or wine tour of your dreams.

Summer can be an ideal time to travel. The hot summer months can actually provide relief to some, like those with tree pollen allergies. Unfortunately for others, summer comes with its own allergy triggers. While tree pollen counts tend to be lower, the summer heat pushes grass and mold pollen to be higher. Ragweed begins to appear in the late summer and early fall months to kick off fall allergies. Pollen is not the only trigger you can expect; more stinging insects and hotter temperatures in summer months can complicate matters for asthma sufferers.

Summer Allergy Location Tips

 

Summer allergy travel tips
Tips for summer allergy travel. Paspalum seed heads, filled with seeds, surrounded by grasses and other weeds.

Location is everything! One consideration is that pollen counts tend to be lower on the coast, so beaches may be a good option. The desert, or alternatively snowy mountain tops, can also be ideal for pollen, although maybe not for summer travel. Does your vacation involve hiking or mountain climbing? Dust mites do not prefer elevations above 2,500 feet, so that may be a great choice as well. Wherever you decide to go check the allergen forecasts for that area. You should also check current pollen counts each day there. If high pollen counts are in the forecast, consider planning inside activities during your trip.

Checking pollen counts may not be the only forecast to make sure to monitor. As the temperatures rise, you can expect the humidity to rise as well. Many who suffer from asthma can find their condition aggravated by the high temperatures and humid climate. When planning your time outside during the summer, check the air quality for low humidity and low ozone days. You can also avoid triggers by planning around the heat of the day when possible.

Packing for Vacation

Although your favorite swimsuit may be more fun, allergy control measures should equally be at the highest priority. Staying compliant to your recommended treatment protocol in the days before you leave is crucial. These measures will support well-maintained symptoms while traveling, and for the duration of the trip.

  • Make sure to pack allergy medication and immunotherapy in a carry-on bag if traveling by plane.
    • Try to keep medications in original packaging and pack all medication and allergen immunotherapy in a separate, clear bag.
    • Any liquid or gel medications or immunotherapy will need to individually be 3-4 ounces or smaller. Consider purchasing travel sizes if standard sizes do not meet this requirement.
  • Pack 1-2 days of additional medication or immunotherapy than what will be needed in case of delay when traveling.
  • It may be beneficial to set a reoccurring alarm on a phone before leaving. Normal routines may change with travel and vacation plans.
  • Finally, are you traveling out of the country? If you are traveling to a non-English speaking location, bring a list of your allergies in the native language. You may also learn to say or write  “I’m allergic to _____.” in the local language.

Additionally, do not forget to pack any hypoallergenic hygiene products that you regularly use. Examples might be sunscreen, after sun cream, lotions, ointments, body wash, or laundry detergent. When searching for accommodations, remember that more and more hotels offer items like mattress and pillow covers or hypoallergenic linens so you may not have to pack your own. It may also be helpful to ask about smoke free rooms, away from humid, mold friendly pool areas if possible. If pet dander is a concern, take note of whether the location is “pet friendly”.

Summer Allergy Avoidance Tips

Air in enclosed spaces such as planes and trains can sometimes be extremely dry.  Consider investing in nasal saline spray or washes, as well as portable humidifier. A humidifier will likely also be beneficial if staying in a hotel for more than a night or two. Staying well hydrated with water and non-caffeinated beverages will also greatly help you combat drying out. If traveling by car, considering utilizing the heat or air conditioning and keeping windows closed. Also, turning on the heat or air 10 minutes before departure can help clear vents of any residual allergen particles.

While enjoying your destination, remember that peak pollen times are typically early in the day (specifically 5am 10am). Scheduling desired outdoor activities for later in the day or just before dusk may help to reduce exposures. Similarly to when you are home, a daily shower is helpful for allergen avoidance. Showering before bed will help to wash away allergens that have adhered themselves to your skin or hair. This is especially important to maintain so that your pillow, sheets, and the immediate space you breathe in all night is allergen free.

Insect Allergies

Another aspect of the summer allergy concerns may be insects. If stinging insect allergies are present planning ahead can alleviate a lot of anxiety and allow for a smooth trip. Always make sure to carry a minimum of two epinephrine auto injectors if it has been prescribed to you or a loved one. Make sure the epinephrine autoinjector is carried in a way it can be accessed and administered within 60 seconds of a need arising.

If you or a loved one does have life threatening allergies, it is a good idea to check with your health insurance and ensure you know where to seek medical care should the need arise while you are out of town. You may also consider carrying an allergy identification card. It can be helpful to keep a card in your wallet listing your allergies, and also emergency contact information and your healthcare provider information. This can be especially important for children who may be summer camps or staying overnight with friends or family.

Food Allergies

If food allergies are present, packing your own meals or snacks may make traveling easier. Preparing food yourself is always the safest option. Alternatively, research the local dining hot spots you wish to visit in advance of leaving for your trip. This allows you to identify safe selections from the menu or you can call to request proper menu accommodations. You may still consider packing your own snacks if you have food allergies. While it may be possible to plan meals around food allergies, snacks often present more of a challenge. Pack allergy friendly snacks, especially if lengthy plane rides are involved.

 

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.