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Children Heading Back to School? Think About a Trip to the Allergist First

There are always a lot of things to do and buy in the days leading up to the start of a new school year.  If you have a child with allergies, you want to be sure to add an appointment with the allergist to your list.

A lot of kids have allergies and most of them do not suffer from problems much worse than sneezing or a runny nose. For children with severe allergies, the possibility of anaphylaxis, no matter how small, makes it important to be prepared.

Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction, usually to a food or insect sting that occurs quickly and is life-threatening.  Children with asthma, or who have previously had a serious allergy attack, are at higher risk for anaphylaxis. 

An allergist will do blood and skin tests to determine the type and severity of your child's allergies.  The doctor can then determine the best treatment options and help you develop an allergy action plan.

Many schools have templates for allergy action plans that just need to be filled in with your child's information.  The plan should include a description of the child's allergy, symptoms, medications and dosages for treating those symptoms, and emergency contact numbers. Teachers, administrators, coaches, school bus drivers, and other supervising adults should all have a copy of the plan.

The allergist will also decide whether your child should carry epinephrine, the drug most often used to alleviate symptoms of a severe allergic reaction.  Parents, teachers, and school personnel should all be trained in how to administer an epinephrine shot in the event of an emergency.  It may be that your child is old enough to learn how to use an EpiPen himself.

Make sure everyone is informed that epinephrine will not stop anaphylaxis, but should delay symptoms long enough to get emergency care.  Always call 911 after a severe allergic reaction, even if symptoms seem to have gone away.

Parents and kids with allergies can do other things to avoid triggers that may cause a reaction.  If food allergies are the problem, pack lunches and snacks at home, and make sure your child knows not to eat anything else.  Peanuts are at the top of the allergic reaction list, so ask the school to ban peanuts from the classroom and lunchroom.

Bright clothing, patterns, and some scents attract insects, so have your child dress in light, solid colors, along with closed-toe shoes to avoid stings.

A medical alert bracelet or necklace is another good safety measure.

Luckily, most kids will never have anaphylaxis, and with a few precautions, there is no reason your child cannot enjoy and safe and happy school year.

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