PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — In the midst of picking up backpacks and supplies before the upcoming school year, doctors say it’s just as important for parents to make sure their children’s medications and health plans are up to date.
Dr. Marcella Aquino, an allergist and immunologist at Hasbro Children’s Hospital, shared some tips for getting children with asthma and seasonal allergies ready to head back to the classroom.
She says first, parents and caregivers should create an Asthma Action Plan to use with school nurses, teachers, and coaches.
“If your child is a teen and is responsible for taking their own medicines, you want to make sure that they carry their medications with them,” Aquino said. “You want to make sure that they’re not expired. You want to make sure they know how to use the medications with proper technique.”
Create your own plan using CDC’s Asthma Action Plan »
Seasonal allergies and upper respiratory infections
For most of the country, ragweed appears in August and peaks in mid-September, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA). Ragweed pollen can stick around as late as November, depending on where you live.
“Going back to school also coincides with a number of viruses that can cause upper respiratory infections, and infections are a huge trigger for those with asthma,” Aquino added.
She says asthmatic children should know their triggers, speak with a doctor about their medications and have them ready for school.
Managing humid or dry air
Dr. Aquino says humid and dry air can trigger asthma symptoms, while humidity can also impact air quality.
“For those whose symptoms trigger during humidity, if possible, stay at home if you can, be in a place with air conditioning,” Aquino explained.
“We recommend a dehumidifier in the home if the home is very humid, particularly if you have an allergy to dust mite, because dust mites tend to grow in humid environments,” she added.
Aquino also recommends using a rescue inhaler before stepping outdoors if it is too hot or humid, and to bring it along in case the user’s breathing gets compromised.
“If at all possible, I would recommend to not exercise when the air quality is poor or very humid because it may be more difficult to get through your regimen,” Aquino said.
What to know about allergies as the flu, COVID-19 circulate
According to Aquino, people with asthma are recommended to stay up to date with yearly vaccinations and booster shots, like for influenza and COVID-19.
She says there are ways to determine whether symptoms are from seasonal allergies versus the flu or COVID.
“Your symptoms to flu will be different,” Aquino said. “You’ll have fever, you’ll have severe muscle aches, severe fatigue.”
“I would say look for a change in quality of your symptoms,” she continued. “If your runny nose is clear, now your discharge may be discolored. You may be having fever, you may be having vomiting, your cough may be wet instead of dry.”
Learn More: Hasbro Community Asthma Programs »
Aquino says after the pandemic hit, people learned how to take care of their personal hygiene and health, leading to fewer upper respiratory infections and asthma exacerbations during the first year.
“Try to keep those practices up,” she added. “Good hand-washing, staying home if you’re sick, getting vaccinated if you haven’t been vaccinated so that you can help prevent severe disease.”
Aquino says if your allergy symptoms have changed over time, consider getting an allergy test.
“If there’s definitely been a change in the period of time you expect you’re experiencing your symptoms, or if there’s a change in your symptom quality – your symptoms were fairly well-controlled, but now they’re poorly controlled – for sure, it’s time for a check-in,” she said.