As students load up their backpacks with notebooks, paper, and pencils and head back to school, there is a group of students thinking about additional items — like an inhaler, an epinephrine injector or instructions for the school nurse on what to do in the case of an allergy or asthma attack.
According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, allergies and asthma are among the leading causes of absenteeism in school age children. Asthma is among the most common chronic childhood illnesses, accounting for over 10 million missed school days a year. So before your child heads back to the classroom, it’s important to make sure their asthma and allergies are in check.
In our latest blog, we asked Dr. Lily Hwang, a board certified allergist with Atlanta Allergy & Asthma and also the proud mother of two young daughters, to discuss what parents can do now to ensure their students are fully prepared to manage allergies, asthma or food allergies during the coming school year.
Schedule an Appointment
Most schools will require updated documents at the beginning of a new school year, so it makes sense to set an appointment with your child’s allergist to assess their medications – whether that’s injectable epinephrine, inhaler or other prescription meds. As children grow, their medications may need to be adjusted, so Dr. Hwang recommends an annual checkup to ensure children are getting the right dosage of medication.
For children with food allergies, checking in with the allergist could bring good news. Depending on the food allergy, some children may outgrow it over time. Cow’s milk, egg and soy allergies typically begin in childhood and may be outgrown by school age. Always check to be certain your injectable epinephrine has not expired. Dr. Hwang cautions that back-to-school season this year brings additional device options including EpiPen, Auvi-Q, plus generic options. It is important that you (and your child if old enough) are trained and comfortable using your device of choice. Also, make sure your school nurse is versed as there are differences in how these devices operate.
Schools also usually require an asthma action plan, so use this back-to-school time to follow up with your allergist. They can administer a breathing test and adjust medications if needed.If your child’s condition requires additional care, you may consider a 504 plan from your school district. Your allergist can guide you on what is necessary for application and what accommodations/modifications are recommended for your child.
Decide What Your Student Can Handle
By the time children reach middle school, they are usually able to carry an inhaler with them rather than having to go to the school nurse. It is important that parents instruct their child on proper techniques as well as discuss the appropriate time to use the inhaler according to Dr. Hwang.
Use this fall season to help high school students with allergies and asthma better understand their symptoms and medications. Parents have been handling doctor’s appointments and medications for years, but for teens, it’s time to take charge of their own health. This is particularly important for students who will be heading off to college and need to be able to manage their medical conditions independently, said Hwang.
Start to Think About Spring...?
For students with springtime allergies – especially to tree pollens – fall is the time to start thinking about treatment. Children can begin allergen immunotherapy in the fall as it takes six months to begin to build a tolerance to their allergic triggers. There is also an FDA-approved oral tablet for treating grass allergies that should be started three months before next year’s grass season begins, explained Dr. Hwang.
Make sure your kids have every opportunity for success – don’t let them miss out on school or extracurricular activities because of their asthma or allergies. Schedule an appointment at one of the 17 Atlanta Allergy & Asthma locations.
For over 40 years, the team at Atlanta Allergy & Asthma has been helping North Georgia residents breathe easier, feel better and live more productive lives.