Page 2


Communication is Critical

"The key to a healthy school year is communication," Zacharisen said. "It is critical to a child's health and success at school that parents explain their child's condition to teachers and school officials."

Students with asthma and allergies should have a School Management Plan on file at school, Zacharisen said. This plan, developed with the child's allergist/immunologist or pediatrician, should contain detailed information about the child's condition, including triggers, medications and what to do in an emergency.

Food Allergy

Food allergies are a special concern for many parents. Up to two million children in the United States have food allergies. The most common symptom of an allergic reaction to food is hives. Food allergic individuals can also experience asthma-like symptoms, eczema and other gastrointestinal symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal cramping. The most severe reaction to food is anaphylaxis, a systemic reaction that can sometimes be fatal.

Some of the most common foods that can trigger an allergic reaction are milk, eggs, peanuts, wheat, soy, fish, shellfish and tree nuts. Strict avoidance of the foods to which a child is sensitive is the only proven therapy for food allergy, but it is difficult to achieve complete avoidance of all allergenic foods. Traces of problem foods can be hidden or accidentally ingested, however, it is possible to reduce student's exposure to allergenic foods within the school setting.

"Staff members involved with the child's care should be instructed about which foods the child needs to avoid, the potentially severe nature of food allergy and proper treatment of allergic reactions," Zacharisen said. "If prescribed, food allergic students should have an epinephrine auto-injector device clearly labeled with the child's name and classroom number. School personnel should also be instructed about the location of the medication and how to administer it if an allergic reaction should occur."

Treating Allergies and Asthma

The best person to treat allergies and asthma is an allergist/immunologist. Allergy/immunology specialists are pediatric or internal medicine physicians who have completed an additional two years of training to become specialized in the treatment of asthma, allergy and immunologic disease. Allergists/immunologists are the best qualified physicians to recognize the sometimes subtle symptoms of allergies and asthma and recommend appropriate treatment. To be referred to a local allergist/immunologist, contact the AAAAI's toll-free Physician Referral and Information Line at 1-800-822-2762 or on the web at

Following are ten tips for parents to help their allergic or asthmatic children stay healthy during the school year:

  1. Make sure a "School Management Plan" is on file for your child at school.
  2. Schedule a meeting with teachers and the school nurse to discuss your child's condition. Review the School Management Plan and help them understand your child's condition.
  3. Encourage children to take their maintenance medications as prescribed.
  4. Review your child's triggers with them and encourage them to get help from a teacher when symptoms worsen.
  5. Make sure your child has their medications and peak flow meter with them at school.
  6. If your child is allergic to certain foods, inform cafeteria staff of foods to avoid and suggest safe alternatives. Be sure epinephrine is available and staff know how to administer it.
  7. Inform physical education teachers and coaches about asthma and warning signs of an attack. Make sure they have a copy of the School Management Plan.
  8. Work with your child's school system to address their concerns about your child's medical needs.
  9. Encourage your child's physician to be an information resource for the school.
  10. See a physician if your child is having difficulty with learning, alertness or endurance. These symptoms may be due to side effects of the child's condition or medications and may be eliminated with a change in medication.

Reprinted with permission from:
American Academy of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology
611 East Wells Street
Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53202

The AAAAI is the largest professional medical specialty organization in the United States representing allergists, asthma specialists, clinical immunologists, allied health professionals and others with a special interest in the research and treatment of allergic disease. Established in 1943, the Academy has more than 6,000 members in the U.S., Canada and 70 other countries. The Academy serves as an advocate to the public by providing educational information through its toll-free line at 1-800-822-2762 and its Web site at

Back To The Diagnostic Categories Download this Article
Go to Page 1