There are lots of things kids get excited about when they go back to school. From brand new lunch boxes loaded with pudding cups, to shiny 64-packs of crayons and catching up with friends they haven’t seen for a while, anticipation is in the air.

But if you’re a parent of one of the 28 million children who suffer from allergies, or one of the 7.1 million children who have asthma, sending kids back to school can cause anxious moments.

“Many parents look forward to their child returning to the classroom,” said allergist Janna Tuck, spokesperson for the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI). “But for parents of children with allergies or asthma, school raises questions about conditions that can’t be controlled or monitored. They want to make sure their child is safe, has adequate resources and that systems are in place if they have an asthma or allergy attack.”

By following these suggestions from the ACAAI, you can help ensure your child has a safe, fun start to the school year.

Know their triggers.

Students with pets at home can bring pet dander into school. Other common allergens such as pollen and dust will definitely find their way into the classroom. If your child suddenly develops a runny nose, has difficulty breathing or comes home with a rash, it may be related to classroom triggers. Check with your allergist if previously unseen symptoms occur or if existing symptoms worsen.

Make an appointment with an allergist.

If you think your child might have allergies or asthma, making an appointment with a board-certified allergist is the first step to accurately developing a game plan. An allergist can determine what’s causing your child’s symptoms, as well as provide guidance to help both of you cope with allergies and asthma. Through prescribing medication and creating treatment plans, your allergist can provide the care that leads to fewer school absences.

Talk to your child about lunch time.

Younger children especially might be excited to share food with friends or try new things on the lunch menu. If your child has a food allergy, it’s important they know why they cannot eat certain things or share food. If your child is prescribed an epinephrine auto injector, make sure the staff is trained in how to use it and knows where your child’s is located.

Meet with the school.

This is one of the biggest steps in preparing for the new school year. Your child’s teachers, coaches, school nurse and principal all should be informed about your child’s asthma and/or allergies and what medications they carry with them. All 50 states have laws allowing children to carry their needed medication. If your child is old enough, teach them how to use their epinephrine auto injector or rescue inhaler. Make sure they understand warning signs and symptoms, what precautions to take and who to talk to if a reaction develops.

Talk with your child’s friends and other parents.

Communication always is a good policy when it comes to managing your child’s allergies and asthma. Talking to your child’s friends, or asking their parents to talk to their children about asthma and allergies, adds another layer of support. This is important for social reasons, as the more your child’s friends and classmates understand allergies and asthma, the less chance your child will feel isolated.

It can be a challenge to keep your kids free from allergy and asthma triggers. To help get you started on developing an action plan and find an allergist in your area check out the ACAAI allergist locator tool. The ACAAI website has lots of resources to ensure your child has a safe and enjoyable school year.

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