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.


how to navigate Easter with allergies

Easter with Allergies

The Easter and Passover holidays are here! Holidays mean family centered fun, festive meals, and usually sweet treats to enjoy. For allergy suffers, however, they can sometimes be challenging to navigate. Aside from the usual pollen and food allergies, brightly dyed eggs, household pets, and sweet baby chicks and bunnies can also wreak havoc on the nose and chest. Here are some tips to navigate the upcoming holidays and ensure that you and your family celebrate safe and happy.

Easter and Food Allergy Considerations

Traditional holiday meals are at the cornerstone of Easter and Passover. Plan the meals out in advance and be mindful of any guests that may have a food allergy. Be flexible and try to switch ingredients for allergy-friendly alternatives, eliminate a recipe from the menu altogether, or take care to prepare allergy-friendly dishes separately from the other meals. If you are not sure if guests have a food allergy, consider printing recipes out for each of the dishes and allow people to determine if it’s a safe food for them to indulge in. Also consider avoiding a buffet style offering, or separating allergen safe foods from allergen containing foods in two different areas or tables.

Sweet Treats

These spring holidays typically mean chocolate and sweet treats to younger members of the family, or those young at heart. Try to again consider those guest and family members that may have allergies to things like chocolate, so they are not left sitting on the sidelines. Allergy to chocolate itself, or the cacao bean, is incredibly rare, however more commonly the offenders are milk, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, and corn. A little research will provide an array of options of dairy free or peanut/tree nut free brands of treats. Always check labels to see if the offending food in contained in the ingredients list, or mentions it was produced in a facility that also processes other allergen containing foods putting your loved one at risk of cross contamination.

Keep in mind most chocolate does contain soy in the form of soy lecithin to keep it solid at room temperature, and white chocolate commonly contains corn in the form of corn syrup. If the treats offered are of the homemade variety, it can be even more challenging for a food allergy sufferer due to lack of label to research ingredients.

If you suffer from food allergies, a good rule to follow if “If you can’t read it, don’t eat it”. Plan to bring some of your own safe snack or goodies, unless you can make sure your host prepared foods allergen free, safely away from other allergen containing food, and on a separate and thoroughly cleaned surface. In lieu of store bought or homemade edible treats, consider offering nonfood items for younger guests such as books, sporting goods, stickers, novelty items, or toys.

Easter Egg Related Allergies

Although the majority of food allergens are most offensive if ingested, it is important to consider that some people do have reactions or develop irritations from contact exposure to egg or the dyes used to make them bold and bright. If colorful dyed egg hunts are part of your spring holiday tradition, there are alternative ways to include everyone on the fun.  Instead of using traditional eggs and egg dye, consider eggs made of wood, ceramic, or plastic, and consider natural dye alternatives. Other options include making gelatin eggs, egg sugar cookies for decorating, or decorating marshmallows in place of eggs. Also, consider replacing the hard-boiled egg on the Passover Seder plate with a ceramic or plastic egg to keep guests anxiety free.

If the above-mentioned allergies are life threatening for you or a loved one, always make sure to carry a minimum of two epinephrine auto injectors if it is prescribed. 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 always a good idea to check with your health insurance and ensure you know where to seek medical care should the need arise if celebrating the Spring holidays out of town.

Pollen Considerations

Food allergens typically are the easiest to keep front of mind during the holidays, however equally as difficult for allergy suffers and arguably more difficult to avoid are the tree pollens and mold spores blowing in the air. These unwanted guests can ruin any picnic or outdoor gathering with nasal, sinus, eye, and chest symptoms. If there is both indoor and outdoor venues at the celebration location, try to minimize the time spent outdoors. If you are hosting the celebration, try to offer an indoor haven if planning to spend time outdoors, as well as keep windows and doors closed at the indoor space. Also, minimize the exposure to outdoor allergens while traveling to the destination by keeping windows up in the car and instead using the air conditioning.

Celebration Times

It is a good habit to always check pollen counts for the area where you will be celebrating. If you are planning the celebration, try to have it start mid-day or later due to peak pollen times typically occurring in the first half of the day (specifically 5am 10am). Also, it would be beneficial to plan the event outside of heavily grassy areas or those densely populated with trees. This may help to decrease the concentration of allergens in the air.  If the celebration will be entirely outdoors with no indoor refuge, it is a good idea to make sure you are on top of your allergy medication or immunotherapy regimen before going. It may be wise to pack a few changes of clothing as well as wet wipes for the ability to remove pollen from your immediate environment every few hours.

Once you return home from the festivities, plan to shower or bathe before prioritizing any other activities. It is especially important to bathe before crawling into bed, to remove any allergens that have adhered themselves to your skin or hair. This is especially important before allowing them to have access to your pillow or sheets and being in the immediate space and air you breath in all night.

Easter and Passover Gifts or Decor

Many people choose to show their appreciation to their host or show their love to their family by bringing beautiful spring flowers or plants to the celebration. Unfortunately, people can have severe symptoms such as sneezing, along with nose and eye itching and watering related to the pollen, or just the smell of particular flowers. Even an asthma attack can be triggered from them. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, there are many flowers you can get at a florist that produce little pollen. Look for tulipsroses, begonia, columbine, crocus, daffodil, and geraniums if you want to be safe.

Pet Allergies

We cannot forget about the cherished furry family members that may be in attendance for the spring holiday celebration. There may also be the propensity to give the give of baby chicks or bunnies this time of year. Dander, saliva, sweat, and urine from adorable dogs, cats, and even bunnies can trigger an allergic response in some people. If possible, try to keep pets confirmed to only a certain area of the celebration so that those that wish to enjoy them can, while those that are unable can find refuge elsewhere.

Make sure to thoroughly wash your hands before returning to an animal free area of the celebration, before partaking in shared food items, or before touching your face, mouth, or eyes. Also, make sure the recipient of a new spring pet is not triggered by them. Although recent literature has shown us a true allergy to bird feathers is rare, there are substantial amounts of dust mites found in feathers that can trigger unwanted allergy symptoms.

Allergy Treatment Options

If you or a loved are unsure whether tree pollen, grass pollen, mold spores, dust mites, or animal dander are potential allergy triggers and the cause of the nasal congestion, runny nose, post nasal drip, sneezing, and itchy watery eyes you have been suffering with, seeing your provider for an allergy test may provide the clarity they are looking for! Some providers may have the ability to access food concerns as well. And if you are already aware of true allergy triggers, but the spring allergy medication and avoidance measures are just not cutting it, there is still time to see your provider and discuss starting allergen immunotherapy.

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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 FacebookLinkedIn, or Twitter. See other interesting and related articles on the UAS Blog.

https://unitedallergyservices.com/blog/patients/5-ways-tame-seasonal-allergies/


Baseball season for allergy sufferers

Tips for Balancing Baseball and Allergies

Spring means longer days, warmer weather, and the beginnings of baseball! Unfortunately for some allergy suffers, the start of the long-anticipated baseball season also means the time of year when allergens such as tree pollen are at an all-time high. Sneezing, wheezing, and itchy, watery eyes can make games or practice challenging for you or your little leaguer. Even more concerning? The thought of major league games and contact with baseball’s favorite sidekick...peanuts! You can still enjoy this spring and baseball season with a little planning for your allergies.

Eliminating all outdoor sports and activities may seem like the best decision, and for many, it is. However, if skipping out on baseball or other outdoor sports due to allergies just is not an option, we can help. Here are some tips that will help allergy suffers enjoy watching America’s pastime and PLAY BALL!

Airborne Allergy Tips

Check the weather forecast before heading to the game. When checking out the weather, it is good practice to also check the pollen counts in the area. Keep in mind that peak pollen times are typically in the first half of the day, specifically 5am 10am. Attending practices or games midday or in the afternoon may help to reduce exposures.

Baseball and outdoor allergies don't have to be in competition with one another. If you have a little leaguer, packing wet wipes is good practice. Wiping down their hands, face and neck can be helpful to combat those distracting allergy symptoms when out on the diamond. Also, make sure your favorite player is not relying on allergy medication that could make them drowsy. There are non-sedating medication options, or allergen immunotherapy that are worth discussing with their provider.

After a long practice or game, it is beneficial to change your clothing as soon as possible. Also helpful is an immediate shower, especially before crawling into bed. The shower will help to wash away any allergens that have adhered themselves to your skin or hair. This is especially important so that the allergens aren't transferred to your pillow or sheets, remaining in the immediate space you breathe in all night.

Planning for Stinging Insects and Food Allergies

If your allergies include stinging insects or even food, planning ahead can alleviate a lot of anxiety. Always make sure to carry a minimum of two epinephrine auto injectors if there is a known insect or food allergy. Make sure the epinephrine auto injectors can be accessed and administered within 60 seconds if the need arises.

If food allergies are present, especially peanut, legume, or tree nut, it can make the lyrics “Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jacks” send shivers down your spine. Fortunately, most large baseball stadiums across the country have become aware of the dangers and distress surrounding food allergies and have started to offer peanut-free games or special accommodations for food allergy families with peanut-free designated seating. The Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) organization typically releases an annual guide outlining which major league and minor league baseball stadiums offer peanut aware sporting events. Along with utilizing their helpful guide, FARE recommends “to reach out directly to the venue to learn more about their efforts”.

Some suggested questions to have ready when you contact the venue about are:

  • Are there any [peanut] allergy friendly games, sections, or suites available?
  • Does the venue utilize power washing for seating, and traffic pathways at the stadium?
  • Can you find ingredient lists or are they available upon request at the concessions?
  • Do they allow families to bring in their own safe meals and snacks?
  • Are emergency responders available to the public at every game, and are their sections closer to these personnel?

Planning and communication are key to enjoying baseball season and balancing your outdoor allergies. Talk to family, friends, coaches, players, and venues, to create a plan that is right for your family. However, missing out on baseball season does not have to be part of that plan. If you or your loved ones are not quite sure if allergies are playing a role, or if the over-the-counter allergy medication just is not cutting it, you have options. There is still time to see your provider and discuss allergy testing and begin allergen immunotherapy.

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About the Author:

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.

https://unitedallergyservices.com/blog/patients/5-ways-tame-seasonal-allergies/

https://unitedallergyservices.com/blog/patients/versus-fall-alergies-will-win-7-tips-fight-allergies/