Parents should also check the expiration dates on their children’s inhalers and EpiPens since many expire after just one year, said Dr. Ashna Bowry, a family doctor with St. Michael’s Hospital.
It’s also important that teachers and caregivers in school know how to recognize the symptoms of allergic reactions and asthma flares, and how to use asthma spacers and EpiPens.
Here are a few things for parents to keep in mind as children head back to school.
Seasonal changes, viral colds and respiratory infections can trigger asthma attacks. Common symptoms of asthma range from a dry, persistent cough, to wheezing and breathing difficulties. Symptoms are typically worst at night and in the morning.
Asthma symptoms may arise after a common cold or ear infection. But there are ways to help prevent asthma flares.
“Handwashing is the best way to reduce the risk of viral infections, which trigger asthma attacks in kids,” she said.
Dr. Bowry advises parents to avoid known triggers such as dust, pets and smoke, and to make sure children are using their prescribed inhalers or oral medications when needed. Inhaler spacers – devices attached to inhalers that help deliver the medication – should be clean and in good condition, so that the medication can effectively travel to the lungs.
Children with allergies should make sure to head back to school with a medical alert bracelet or some sort of identification to let students and teachers know about their allergies, said Dr. Bowry.
“If children have food allergies, parents should notify the school, especially if the kids are getting meals at school,” she said.
Dr. Bowry said children should also be made aware of their allergies.
“Try to encourage them to report any symptoms,” she said. “If they start feeling itchy, getting a rash or start feeling they have trouble breathing, they need to let an adult know quickly.”
Some common symptoms of environmental allergies are a persistent runny nose or nasal congestion, itchy, watery or puffy eyes, hives or a rash. Food allergies can cause diarrhea or vomiting.
To help prevent flare-ups for children with eczema – a skin condition common among people with allergies – Dr. Bowry stresses the importance of proper skin care and keeping skin properly hydrated as the weather starts to cool.
With proper planning and preparation, parents can help ensure a safe school year for children with asthma or allergies. And that’s something that will help parents and kids breathe a little easier.
About St. Michael’s Hospital
St. Michael’s Hospital provides compassionate care to all who enter its doors. The hospital also provides outstanding medical education to future health care professionals in 27 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, care of the homeless and global health are among the hospital’s recognized areas of expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Centre, which make up the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, research and education at St. Michael’s Hospital are recognized and make an impact around the world. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.