When leaves start falling, mold spores begin to increase both indoors and out. Fall and winter-time air-temperature inversions—warm air on top of cold—occur both inside and out. This decreases the vertical mixing of air, and contaminants build up as a result.
When building custodians fire up the furnaces, dust and mouse droppings that have accumulated all spring and summer are swept right out of the heating ducts, into the classroom and the air everyone is exposed to.
Add to the normal everyday allergen-laden super-market of dust, dirt, chalk, pollen, pesticides, chemicals, sanitation supplies, perfumes, guinea pigs, mice, birds, rodents, and cockroaches — all make schools a 24-hour-a-day, year-round threat.
In addition to talking with your child’s allergy specialist, naturopathic doctor, or chiropractor, there are steps you can take to ease the burden of seasonal allergies.
Paul Ehrlich, MD and Larry Chiamonte, MD, authors of Asthma, Allergies and Children: A Parent’s Guide created the following checklist for parents.
You can reduce your child’s risk for allergies & asthma this school year by:
1. Finding out who staffs the health clinic. Do they have policies and procedures about food allergies, particularly peanuts? Do they regulate snacks and special-occasion treats such as birthday cupcakes?
2. Letting the school know how to reach you during the day in case of an emergency.
3. Touring your child’s classroom before school starts to identify potential allergy and asthma triggers. Offer suggestions to protect your child’s health.
4. Communicating closely with staff if your child has exercise-induced asthma to make sure coaches and physical education teachers know the warning signs that your child is likely to experience and how to handle an emergency if one occurs.
5. Working with your child’s teacher. When a child is itchy or having trouble breathing, it’s hard to concentrate; certain over-the-counter and prescription medicines can make them moody and impact their ability to learn. Work with your child’s teacher to develop ways to help your child focus.
6. Keeping lines of communication with the school open throughout the year. Review your management plan periodically and make sure everyone is comfortable with the strategies in place.
7. If your child has food allergies, you’ll find extremely helpful tips at the Allergy Kids Foundation.
If your child is athletic and has asthma, there are a few extra precautions you can take. Have your child run a few laps in a warm gym before going outside to avoid cold air shock which causes bronchospasm. There is no need to worry about exercising. Elite athletes who have overcome asthma to become champions, include soccer player David Beckham, Olympic Gold Medal skater Kristy Yamaguchi and Olympic swimmer Mark Spitz.