As summer winds down and kids gear up for going back to school, a parent’s to-do list becomes lengthy. If you’ve got a child with asthma or allergies, we’re sorry to tell you that you need to add a few more items to your list! It’s not really a bad thing, though, because a little bit of extra planning right now can help prevent trouble down the road. Here are some steps we recommend you take before your children go back to school.
File a care plan with the school. Contact your child’s school to find out what kind of care plan your child needs, and what medical forms need to be completed before the school year starts. You’ll need to have paperwork in place that lists symptoms, medicines, steps to take to prevent problems, and steps to take if symptoms occur. You’ll probably need to file a medicine authorization and an emergency action plan, as well as a dietary meal accommodation form if your child has food allergies. The plans to manage a child’s medical care are called different things depending on the situation, but the three most common types are:
Emergency Care Plan (ECP): This is your child’s doctor’s medical plan for the school to follow.
Individualized Health Care Plan (IHCP): A type of nursing care plan, this would include an emergency care plan for a child with asthma or food allergies.
504 Plan: This is a legal contract between your student and the school, so it offers more legal protection than the other types of plans.
Schedule a doctor’s appointment. Over the summer, and certainly at least two or three weeks before school starts, visit your child’s doctor. Ask the doctor to fill out and sign the forms for the school, updating any medical action plans as needed. These plans should be updated annually, at the beginning of the school year. At the same appointment, you can get refills for your child’s medications. If your child uses an inhaler, ask your doctor for an extra one that can be kept at school. Be aware that many schools are not using nebulizers this year, because they may spread the virus that causes COVID-19.
Meet with school staff. The staff members you need to meet with will vary based on your child’s condition. Certainly, talk to the school nurse and your child’s teacher before the first day of school, to make them aware of your child’s needs. If you have a child with food allergies, talk to the food services director. If your child plays sports and has asthma, talk to the coach or the sports director. It’s important for them to know what your child needs, and for you to know how they handle various situations. Ask questions like:
Where is medicine kept, and is it easily accessible?
Do staff receive training on managing asthma and allergies?
What is the school protocol for handling asthma episodes or allergic reactions?
How does the school handle bullying?
How is food handled in the school?
Will safe food substitutions be provided for a child with food allergies?
Has the COVID–10 pandemic changed how food is served, and if so, what is the new process for managing food allergies?
Teach your child self-care. As children grow, they can- and should- learn age-appropriate self-management of allergies and asthma. Talk to your pediatrician or allergist about your child’s capabilities when it comes to self-carrying and administering medication. If your child needs to bring asthma medication or epinephrine to school, you’ll need to work with the doctor and school to file the proper paperwork. Your child should know how to:
Recognize asthma or allergy symptoms.
Let an adult know if there is a problem.
Properly wash hands.
Read food labels to identify allergies.
Report bullying or harassment.
Carry and use medication.
Take preventive measures. Prevention is easier and more effective than trying to get asthma and allergy symptoms under control. Be aware that September brings a spike in asthma attacks and hospitalizations because fall pollen peaks, viruses and bacteria spread among schoolchildren, and children are exposed to asthma and allergens in the schools. Get your child’s asthma under control before school starts, and talk to the doctor if the treatment plan needs to be adjusted. Have your child vaccinated against the flu, pneumococcal disease, and COVID-19, because these illnesses can be very serious. If you have concerns about classroom triggers for allergy and asthma, talk to the school about reducing them. Find out about your school’s plan to reduce the spread of COVID-19, and consider having your child wear a mask even if it’s not required or the child is vaccinated. Masks reduce a child’s exposure to triggers like pollen, allergens, and scents, as well as reducing their risk of respiratory infections.
If your child has asthma or allergies, enlisting the help of an experienced, board-certified allergist will give you confidence that your doctor can help you find the solutions you need to manage your condition. At Allergy & Asthma Specialists SM, all of our physicians are board-certified in allergy and immunology and can help you identify triggers and learn to control your symptoms. Call 610-825-5800 or visit the website for an appointment, or to learn more about our available services.