School presents special challenges to school age children that have allergies and asthma. Asthma can be triggered by allergens in the classroom as well as respiratory infection that peak in the fall and winter months. Missed school affects grades and student self-esteem. Away from the controlled home environment, food allergies, especially those that cause anaphylaxis, can precipitate a medical emergency. Many children with severe allergies may be singled out and bullied by their peers. Parents can take an active part in reducing illness and its complications.

During the summer, bring your child to the doctor to make sure asthma and allergies are under control. Schedule a flu shot in the fall. Discuss an action plan for asthma and/or review possible allergy triggers, such as pollen or foods. Share this information with the school staff and nurse.

The Department of Education has elaborate forms to insure that basic medications are available. They have provisions to either allow the child to carry his/her medication or to keep it with the school nurse. These medications include albuterol inhalers for asthma or injectable epinephrine for anaphylactic shock. The forms include criteria for medication use and contacts to call. Medication must be available for gym class and after-school sports. Coaches and physical education teachers may have to adjust their activities to accommodate a child’s limitations. A teacher who supervises your child should be aware of both specific and non-specific symptoms such as irritability, distractibility and/or restlessness. Ask the school staff to identify when and where symptoms worsen so that you can work with the doctor and adjust the treatment plan accordingly.

A list of food allergies and safe alternatives must be shared by the school nurse, teachers, lunch monitors and after school supervisors. Some schools have a peanut-free zone. The child must also be vigilant and aware of his or her food allergies. Fellow students may innocently wish to share their snacks with others. Sometimes the taunting and bully of a student begins with dares to try allergic foods.

Visit with the teacher and staff. Inspect the classroom, art room, gymnasium and cafeteria. A class rabbit or hamster may be an asthma trigger that is overlooked.

We must work together to create a safe learning environment and help these children avoid allergy and asthma attacks at school.

Dr. Gontzes, is board
certified in Allergy &
Immunology and has
32 years of experience.
He is a resident of
Middle Village and a
member of the
Juniper Park Civic Association.

Peter Gontzes MD
9231 57th Ave
Elmhurst, NY 11373
(718) 592-1731