Relief for Allergies at School
Relief for allergies at school and day care is an urgent problem for many
parents and kids.
Consider the statistics: As many as 40% of children in the U.S. suffer from
seasonal allergies, and one in every 17 children under the age of 3 has a food
How can you work with teachers, coaches, the school nurse -- and your family
-- to keep allergies at school under control? How can you help your child avoid
missing important class days and be comfortable and productive while in
If your child's allergies are moderate to severe, you'll probably need to
talk to the doctor about medication. But taking control of environmental and
lifestyle triggers can also help your child by limiting exposure to
Talk to Teachers About Your Child's Allergies
It's important to educate your child's teachers and other school
professionals about the specific allergies. Every child's situation is
different, so try to schedule a parent-teacher conference prior to each new
school year. Even if your child will be in the same school, allergy information
will not necessarily be passed on to new teachers. Here are things you can
- Provide background resources they may need, such as the Asthma and Allergy
tool Kit for School Nurses at
http://www.aaaai.org/members/allied_health/tool_kit/. The American Academy of
Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology also has fact sheets on allergic disorders. And
you can get school guidelines for food allergies from the Food Allergy and
Anaphylaxis Network at http://www.foodallergy.org/school.html.
- Bring a detailed list of your child's allergy triggers. The American
Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology offers a list to make sure you don't
leave something out.
- Discuss the ways in which your child might describe having an allergic
reaction to something, since children can't always explain their symptoms in
standard ways. "For example, instead of saying 'My tongue is swelling,' a
4-year-old might say that his tongue is hot, or feels hairy, or tastes
funny," says Michael Pistiner, MD, an allergist in West Nyack,
- Ask what measures the school takes to reduce seasonal allergies. Things
they can do include installing high-efficiency air filters, promptly repairing
leaky pipes, keeping windows closed on high-pollen days, limiting carpeting in
classrooms, and having grounds maintenance done on weekends or before or after
the school day. "They can also try to limit outdoor activities on
high-pollen days, and use mats instead of rugs for nap time," says Charles
Lowe III, a pediatric asthma and allergy specialist in Pikeville,
- If your child is allergic to animal dander, ask that "classroom
pets" such as hamsters and gerbils be avoided. "If your child is
allergic to a more common pet like a cat or dog, the chances are good that he
or she could cross-react to less common animals, like rodents," says James
Sublett, MD, an allergist in Louisville, Ky.
- If your child has food allergies, ask your allergist to fill out a
"Food Allergy Action Plan" (available at
http://www.aaaai.org/patients/gallery/foodallergy.asp), and provide copies to
the school nurse, teachers, and administrators.
- If your child's allergies are life-threatening, be sure the school has
multiple doses of medication (such as epinephrine) on hand and a policy for
quick use in an emergency.
Food allergies, in particular, can be life-threatening, so it is important
to ask detailed questions about your school's food allergy policy. Here are
five questions to ask:
- Do they have a blanket ban on major food allergens, like peanuts, or simply
have peanut-free tables in the cafeteria?
- How do they handle celebrations like birthdays?
- Do parents bring in treats from outside?
- Are there bake sales?
- Do they prohibit food sharing among children?