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Expert Tips May Help Kids Avoid Allergens at School

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THURSDAY, Aug. 2 (HealthDay News) -- Before they head back to school, children should be taught how to avoid common allergens, experts say.

Just like germs or viruses, there are many allergy triggers in classrooms and on playgrounds that are responsible for more than 14 million missed school days each year in the United States, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI).

"Children with allergies and asthma should be able to feel good, be active and not miss any classes or activities this school year due to their condition," allergist Dr. James Sublett, chair of the ACAAI Public Relations Committee, said in a college news release. "Helping your child understand what triggers their symptoms can keep them focused on their studies and not their allergies."

The ACAAI advised that there are ways children can stay away from allergy triggers so they can feel their best, including:

  • Avoid chalk dust. Children with asthma or allergies should wash their hands after handling chalk and not sit too close to the chalkboard.
  • Steer clear of bees and wasps. Children should not disturb bees or other insects when they are outside. They should also avoid wearing brightly colored clothing on the playground. Children with insect allergies should consider talking to an allergist about venom immunotherapy, which can be 97 percent effective in preventing future reactions to insect bites, according to the release.
  • Pack lunch. Children with food allergies should bring their lunch to school and avoid sharing food, napkins or utensils with their friends. Teachers, coaches and the school nurse should also be informed about students' food allergies. In extreme cases, food allergies can cause anaphylaxis, a life-threatening reaction. Parents could also suggest their child's school adopt an allergen-free snack policy.
  • Be aware of breathing troubles after physical activity. Children who experience trouble breathing during or after gym class, recess or other physical activities at school could have exercise-induced bronchoconstriction or asthma. These children should visit an allergist who can diagnose and treat their condition.
  • Don't cuddle classroom pets. Children with allergies should avoid pets with fur and not be seated next to children who have furry pets at home. Parents can also request that teachers choose a hairless classroom pet, such as a fish or a frog.

The experts recommended that children with symptoms of allergies or asthma make an appointment with a board-certified allergist to develop a treatment plan.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about students' health in school.

SOURCE: American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, news release, July 19, 2012

-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas

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