As the dog days of summer come to a close, kids are back in the classroom. And for those with allergies, there's quite a bit to keep in mind.
"While kids are out for the summer, we kind of get lulled into this false sense of security," said Dr. Lee Perry, with Chattanooga Allergy Clinic. "Kids are under our watch all the time, and we know they're getting cared for in all the right ways."
It's important for parents and administrators to be on the same page when it comes to children with allergies, especially those with severe ones, he said. Food allergies, asthma triggers and seasonal ragweed allergens are among the top triggers for parents and administrators to be mindful of during the school year.
"The leading fall allergen we face this time of year is ragweed," Dr. Perry said. "It's a seasonal weed pollen that's very common in Chattanooga."
He said avoidance is always the best way to prevent allergen-related symptoms and sicknesses, but with things like ragweed, when avoidance is not realistic, over-the-counter medications like Zyrtec are helpful. "Allergy shots are also great depending on the patient," added Dr. Perry. "They do take time, but they work really well and are a potential cure."
Next is the matter of food allergies and how to handle them while your child is at school.
"Peanut allergy is one of the most common food allergies we see," Dr. Perry said. "About 1 percent of kids below the age of 12 have this allergy. It has slowly increased over the past few decades." Other common food allergens include milk, wheat, egg, soy, tree nuts and seafood.
With other students bringing food from home, it's important for parents of children with food allergies to have a plan in place with school administrators and to keep an EpiPen readily available, he noted.
Chattanooga Allergy Clinic treats all types of allergic disorders and problems at its five offices with seven providers in and around Chattanooga. For more information about summer allergies or to find an office near you, visit chattanoogaallergyclinic.com or call 423-899-0431.
"There's an increased risk of accidental exposure, so it's crucial to have everything in place to keep your child safe," said Dr. Perry, adding that most schools are good about having an action plan to deal with allergies and helping officials know what foods kids should avoid based on students' histories.
Finally, there's the matter of asthma and increased triggers that children can be exposed to in the classroom.
"Infections are one of the top possible asthma triggers," Dr. Perry said. "Going back to school, one of the main things kids do is exchange colds. We need to recognize the risks there and be sure kids are on their proper medications and routines daily."
Other common asthma triggers are allergies from local pollen (like ragweed) and exercise. Dr. Perry said with kids back in school, it's not uncommon to have two of these triggers at once, and sometimes all three.
"Over the summer kids can be less active, and then getting pushed back into being more active, along with exposure to possible colds, can be harmful to asthmatics," he said.
The main thing is to make sure children with allergies or asthma remain on their treatments with the right techniques and routines, and for school officials to have any rescue medications available at all times, he said.