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6 Tips for Handling Allergies in School

For children with allergies, the end of summer doesn't have to mean the beginning of a stuffy-headed school year. You can help control your child's allergies at school -- and you should.

In a national survey of more than 1,000 families, parents of children with nasal allergies were twice as likely to say their children's daily activities were hurt by their health. Take action to ease your child's allergies at school and you may boost her academic and social life as well.

To do this, you need to enlist the help of school staff. These 6 tips from the experts can help.

Meet with School Staff

Arrange a meeting with teachers, coaches, and the school nurse. Fill them in on your child's allergies and how to deal with them.

Create an "Allergy Card"

Pollens from schoolyard trees and grasses may trigger your child's allergies. Or indoor allergens such as mold and animal dander may set them off.

Make a reference card about your child's triggers and reactions for the school nurse and others who may benefit from having it handy. Include:

  • Your child's typical allergy symptoms and what triggers them
  • Names and doses of medications your child takes
  • Any allergies your child has to medication
  • Your work, home, and mobile telephone numbers
  • A backup emergency contact person

Update the card annually or when medications or symptoms change.

Set up "Symptom Alerts"

If your child's allergies worsen and wreck his sleep, or his allergy medication needs adjustment, the signs may show up in the classroom. Ask his teachers to alert you if he:

  • Is unable to focus or easily distracted
  • Is coughing, which may mean that allergy symptoms are worsening 
  • Has red eyes, a commonly overlooked symptom of allergies

Get Your Child Involved

You may not know all the allergens at school that trigger or worsen your child's symptoms. Ask her to tell you if something seems to give her a runny nose, itchy eyes, or other symptoms. This may include:

  • Dust mites. These are common, but less so if a classroom is air-conditioned
  • Animal allergens. This may be a problem in classrooms that have pets such as hamsters or rabbits.
  • Mold. Damp restrooms and leaking pipes can make this a problem.
  • Chalk dust and strong odors. These can act as irritants, worsening allergy symptoms.

Encourage your child to tell the teacher if she thinks something is making her sneeze and sniffle. Follow up in your own ongoing talks with the teacher.

Learn About School Policy on Medications

Find out the school's policy on having medications at school. Teach your child what to do when he needs to use medication at school.

Prepare for Potential Flares

Consider what situations may make your child's allergies worse and plan ahead.

For example, your doctor may suggest allergy shots to help your child deal with allergy season. If outdoor activities such as recess and sports may be a problem, especially on high-pollen days, taking allergy medications before heading to school may be the solution for your child.

On days when pollen counts are high, even being in the classroom may aggravate your child's allergies. Ask teachers if it's possible to close the classroom windows on those days.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on October 25, 2012
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