HEALTH RISKS IN
THE CLASSROOM: CHILDREN WITH ASTHMA AND ALLERGIES NEED TO TAKE SPECIAL
PRECAUTIONS AT SCHOOL
A new survey by the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology
of allergists/immunologists and school nurses showed that children
with asthma and allergies often have reactions to triggers in the
classroom. A survey of children with asthma and allergies conducted
by the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, 41 percent
of respondents said they had as many as three asthma attacks per
month at school.
"Parents with children suffering from allergies or asthma should
be concerned," said Michael Zacharisen, M.D., Fellow of the AAAAI.
"Parents of allergic and asthmatic children need to take special
steps to help prepare their child and their child's teachers for
the new school year."
Asthma and allergies are among the most common, chronic conditions
in the United States. Nearly five million children in the United
States have asthma and millions more have allergic rhinitis, or
hay fever. Children miss about two million school days each year
because of allergy symptoms and 10 million school days because of
Triggers and Symptoms in the Classroom
Allergies and asthma can be triggered by allergens, ordinarily
harmless substances like pollen, dust mites and mold spores. Allergens
at school that can cause an allergic or asthmatic reaction include
dust mites, chalk dust, animal dander from class pets or pet hair
on student's clothing, exercise and pollen and molds.
Children with allergies may experience congestion, a runny nose
or itchy, water eyes when they are exposed to the allergens to which
they are sensitive. When children with asthma come in contact with
their triggers, they may experience coughing, wheezing, shortness
of breath, or chest tightness.
"The key to reducing the severity of symptoms a child experiences
at school is avoidance," Zacharisen said. "Parents need to make
school personnel aware of their child's asthma or allergy triggers
so they can help the child avoid them."
Appropriate Treatment is Key
Allergy and asthma symptoms sparked by triggers in the classroom
can interfere with participation in sports, school trips, physical
education and play activities. Asthma and allergies can also interfere
with a child's energy level, concentration, attention, peer relations,
physical activities and cognitive functioning.
"If you or your child's teacher notices your child is having difficulty
concentrating in school or isn't able to participate in physical
activities, it may be a sign of improper treatment," Zacharisen
said. "Children with well-controlled allergies and asthma can fully
participate in all school activities. Just because a child has asthma
or allergies doesn't mean they have to suffer with them."
Access to Medication at School
Students with asthma frequently have a sudden onset of symptoms
from a variety of causes. In most cases, these asthma episodes can
be prevented or treated by inhaled medications. For students to
be able to function normally at school, it is critical that prescribed
medications be available to them at all times during the school
It is the position of the AAAAI that children be allowed to carry
their inhaled asthma medications with them at school. The AAAAI
position statement says, "Students whose parents and physician judge
that they have sufficient maturity to control the use of these inhaled
medications should be allowed to retain these inhalers in their
possession. School policies that require inhalers to be kept in
school officials' or nurses' offices resulting in an interference
in the medical needs of the patient and may seriously delay treatment."