Back-to-school Asthma Risks: Asthma, Children & Classroom Exposure
By Peter Bernard | HealthKey, Friday, August 20, 2010
Like many parents, you probably think you have all of your child’s back-to-school needs covered, right? You may want to take another look—at asthma.
According to the American Lung Association, asthma is the most common chronic disorder in childhood, affecting an estimated seven million children under the age of 18. It’s also one of the main reasons that students miss school due to illness, with over 14 million lost school days every year. It’s estimated that 60-90 percent of kids with asthma have an underlying allergic trigger for their asthma, and returning to the classroom can expose your child to a host of allergens.
Dr. Jackie Eghrari-Sabet, an asthma and allergy specialist from Washington, D.C., says the annual return to school in August and September can worsen asthma and allergies in children, teens and adults.
“A lot of people don’t realize that when the kids go back to school, many adults ‘go back to school’ as well,” Dr. Eghrari-Sabet said. “Some coach, some return to the classrooms as teachers, aides and volunteers. Back-to-school is a great time for everyone to be aware of the dangers posed by allergies and asthma, which is an allergic reaction in the lungs.” The close confines of classrooms and exposure to a variety of viruses and bacteria carried by other kids— combined with indoor and seasonal outdoor allergens such as dust mites, ragweed and molds—means unmanageability, misery, and sometimes trips to the emergency room. In fact, clinical research has demonstrated that asthma-related trips to the ER peak 17 days after Labor Day—September 6th this year.
Classrooms that have been shuttered all summer can be a hotbed for dust mites and mold, especially when younger students, like kindergartner’s and preschoolers, play on the floor.
According to Dr. Eghrari-Sabet, thinking—and planning—ahead can eliminate some of these problems.
“The first thing is to make sure you get the correct diagnosis — find out exactly what you’re allergic to,” Eghrari-Sabet said. “See an allergist or your family doctor.” A new test called Immunocap can help doctors properly diagnose allergy and asthma sufferers.
Getting vaccinated for the flu is also a good idea for students and adults with asthma problems.
“A lot of people don’t realize that this year the swine flu vaccination will be rolled into the regular seasonal flu vaccination,” Eghrari-Sabet said. “There’s no need to get two vaccinations like last year.”
Lastly, the doctor says use of asthma inhalers should be closely monitored.
“A lot of children carry their rescue (fast-acting) inhalers to school and leave their maintenance inhalers (for daily use) at home,” Dr. Eghrari-Sabet said. “If you’re using your rescue inhaler more than two times a week, you’re on the wrong medication.”