“The CDC is offering ongoing guidance regarding how to keep your children and teens safe from COVID-19,” says allergist Luz Fonacier, MD, president of the American College of Allergy Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI). “One of the recommendations from the CDC is that all children who qualify for the COVID-19 vaccine should get it – to protect themselves and those around them from being infected. Teachers and staff should also be vaccinated, if possible. Any teacher, staff member, or child who has not been vaccinated should be wearing a mask.”
CDC guidelines regarding how best to keep kids safe from COVID-19 may change over the next weeks, and school districts could enforce individual guidelines for the area where your kids are in school. What likely will not change are ACAAI recommendations on how best to avoid allergy and asthma flares for kids in classrooms this year.
Five ACAAI guidelines for the coming school year include:
- Keep all viruses at bay – Recent research indicates that both children and adults with asthma have done remarkably well during the pandemic, with visits to emergency rooms for asthma attacks plummeting. Allergists, among others, think the reason may be that those with asthma were possibly spared some of the viruses normally picked up at school and work because they were quarantined at home and have been wearing masks. Those viruses can negatively impact those with asthma. With lots of kids heading back to in-person schooling, parents will need to be vigilant about viruses like the flu, and other ailments that get passed around. Encourage your kids to mask up, wash hands, and use hand sanitizer whenever possible.
- Take the usual precautions – COVID-19 aside, if your child has allergies or asthma, they will still need to avoid the triggers that set off their allergic reactions. For example, volatile organic compounds (known as VOCs) can sometimes result from new carpeting and cause wheezing and sneezing. Is there new carpeting in the hallways? Are there open windows where pollen can drift into the classroom? Could a class pet be causing allergies? How about mold in the bathrooms? Potential triggers should be discussed with the teacher and school administrators to help ease symptoms.
- See your allergist – Well before the summer finishes, plan to check in with your child’s board-certified allergist. Your allergist is the best-trained specialist to keep asthma symptoms under control. Work with them to make sure your child’s allergy and asthma medications are appropriate for their height and weight, their asthma action plan is up to date and that symptoms are under control. Children with asthma under the care of an allergist have a 77 percent reduction in lost time from school, and an allergist can set your child on the right track – for the long term – to handle their allergies or asthma.
- Be on the lookout for food allergens – Your child with food allergies may have gotten used to eating meals at home this past year and perhaps has not had to be as vigilant about food allergens. As they head back to school and into the cafeteria, first make sure their food allergy diagnosis is correct. Parents are sometimes given misinformation about food allergies thanks to home tests and unreliable sources. About 5 to 8 percent of children have diagnosed food allergies, and it is important to work with an allergist toarrive at the If your child does have a food allergy, make sure the school is fully informed. Work with your allergist and school staff to have an action plan that lists the foods your child is allergic to, what treatment needs to be given, as well as emergency contact information.
- Prevent the flu – It is vital that your child stays healthy, and that includes making sure they get a flu vaccine. “Although flu numbers were down somewhat last year due to people staying close to home, getting the flu vaccine can keep your child from getting sick with something we know is preventable,” says Dr. Fonacier. “We don’t know what this fall and winter will bring, but if COVID-19 cases are again on the rise, it’s important to keep everyone safe from the flu virus and out of the hospital.”
If your child’s classroom has been cleared of allergens as much as possible and they are still suffering from symptoms, it is time to see a board-certified allergist. Allergists are specially trained to help you take control of your child’s allergies and asthma, so they can live the life they want. Find an allergist in your area with the ACAAI allergist locator.
The ACAAI is a professional medical organization of more than 6,000 allergists-immunologists and allied health professionals, headquartered in Arlington Heights, Ill. The College fosters a culture of collaboration and congeniality in which its members work together and with others toward the common goals of patient care, education, advocacy, and research. ACAAI allergists are board-certified physicians trained to diagnose allergies and asthma, administer immunotherapy, and provide patients with the best treatment outcomes. For more information and to find relief, visit AllergyandAsthmaRelief.org. Join us on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.