If your child has come home this past month with the sniffles, it may not be a cold. At school, they may be exposed to allergens and irritants not found at home. Symptoms of allergen exposure can include runny nose, congestion, sneezing, watery eyes, itchy nose, itchy eyes, cough, and even asthma attacks.
Here are some possible allergy and asthma triggers to keep in mind:
If you notice that your child has developed allergy symptoms since starting school, an allergist can test to help identify triggers and offer advice on treatment. If your child has a school-based trigger, allergy medication during the school day or treatment with allergy shots, also called allergen immunotherapy, can help. Making changes in the environment to avoid the allergen can help, too. This may include decreasing exposure to pets, keeping windows closed, and making sure the environment is not overly humid.
For children with asthma, allergic triggers and exercise may cause symptoms to flare. Children with asthma should have rescue medication such as an inhaler and an asthma action plan available to them at school. For some children, their doctor may recommend use of rescue medication before gym class or recess as a preventive measure. Younger kids may be less verbal about how they're feeling, so be sure to review your child's asthma action plan with school staff.
For children with food allergies, being back to school can cause anxiety. If you haven't by now, review your child's food allergy action plan with school staff. Children with food allergies who have been prescribed epinephrine autoinjectors should have two unexpired devices available to them at all times. These may be stored at the nurse's office or sometimes, older children may carry their medications based on the school's policy. Discuss snack time and classroom celebrations with your child and the teacher ahead of time. You may need to send snacks to school for your child to eat during a celebration. Most schools have policies designed to help protect children with allergies and will partner with you to ensure that your child has a healthy and safe school year.