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Back to School - Advice for Parents with Allergic Children

It is estimated that 50 million Americans suffer from allergies. Quite a large number of these allergy sufferers are children that are headed back to school in the coming weeks. That means that many of these children are about to be exposed to environments that may not be free of potentially deadly allergens. There's a good reason for that. The wide array of foods, animals, insects, dusts, and molds that can cause allergies can be quite common and nearly impossible to completely eliminate from the school environment. Even with the presence of these allergens, though, allergies can be controlled, if you have a plan.

A plan to deal with allergens your children might come into contact with at school starts with education. First, you have to educate yourself on your child's allergies and how to manage them. Learn about the severity of the allergy, the likelihood of exposure to the allergen, preventative treatments, and emergency treatments. Second, you have to educate your child on their allergies. Teach them how to avoid allergens, how to manage their allergies, and how to recognize symptoms early, so treatment can be administered as soon as possible. Third, you have to educate the school's staff. The staff who will come into contact with your child need to be aware of his or her allergy, what causes it, symptoms to watch for, and how to treat an allergic reaction.

After you have educated yourself, your child, and the school staff about your child's allergy, you need to prepare for the possibility of exposure and the need for emergency treatment. Medication for treating allergies, including an epi-pen for severe allergic reactions, should be readily available to any staff member who will be responsible for your child during the school day. Talk to the school's staff about what systems they have in place for dealing with these kinds of emergencies. Remember that they likely have plans in place to effectively address students suffering from allergic reactions. Make sure that you're aware of what they are, how you can contribute to making it easier for the staff to assist your child, and that your child knows what the school's emergency plans for treating severe allergic reactions are.

After you have educated and prepared, then discuss avoidance. Avoidance in an environment like a school is difficult. There are many teachers, substitute teachers, custodians, other staff members, students, and visitors, and each of them could inadvertently expose your child to an allergen. Someone who brings in an animal for a demonstration, peanut oil in foods it's not apparent it would be an ingredient in, even something like a bee flying in through a window can be a danger to a child with a severe allergy. Avoidance is difficult, and the only solution is education, as stated before. If your child and their teacher are aware of allergens to keep an eye out for, avoiding potential allergens is easier.

With millions of children headed back to school these next few weeks, the potential exposure to allergens for children increases. Schools can't control for all possible allergens all the time and having a plan to deal with exposure is the best way to ensure your child's safety. Keep these points in mind:

• Educate yourself on the allergy and treatment.
• Educate your child on their allergy, how to treat it, how to avoid exposure, and how to know when they need to ask for help.
• Educate school staff on your child's allergy, how it's treated, how they can help your child avoid a reaction, and how they can help to identify a reaction.
• Prepare by ensuring medicine is readily available with school staff, and they can administer it to your child.
• Prepare by ensuring your child has an epi-pen close by should they need it for a severe reaction.

Every allergy is a little bit different, and severity and treatment vary. To make sure you have the best information to forge your school plan, set an appointment with an allergist.