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ACAAI > Patients & Public > Newsroom > What's New

Back-to-School Health Tips 101
Allergy and asthma triggers in the classroom

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill.– Immunizations and physicals shouldn’t be the only items on your child’s back-to-school health checklist. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI), allergies and asthma account for more than 14 million school day absences annually. Much like germs and cold viruses, there are many allergens lurking in the classroom.

With the back-to-school season right around the corner, parents should help their children understand how to avoid common allergens, both inside the classroom and on the playground

“Children with allergies and asthma should be able to feel good, be active and not miss any classes or activities this school year due to their condition,” said allergist James Sublett MD, chair of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) Public Relations Committee. “Helping your child understand what triggers their symptoms can keep them focused on their studies and not their allergies.”

To help your child feel their best and understand the things in the classroom that can make them sneeze and wheeze, ACAAI and its allergist members have developed the following tips.

  • Two Plus Two Equals A-Choo! –Chalk dust from the chalkboard and playground can trigger allergy and asthma symptoms. Children with sensitive noses should sit away from the chalkboard and wash their hands after handling chalk.
  • Ring Around the Wasp Nest –An estimated two million Americans are allergic to insect stings, which can cause life-threatening allergic symptoms (anaphylaxis). Children should avoid disturbing bees and wasps,and not wear brightly colored clothing on the playground. Talk to your allergist about venom immunotherapy which can be 97 percent effective in preventing future allergy to insect stings.
  • Mac and Sneeze –Peanuts, milk, egg, wheat and soy might mean more than a slight sniffle and sneeze if your child has food allergies. Have your child bring a bagged lunch to school every day, and avoid sharing food, napkins and utensils with their peers. Be sure to inform your child’s teacher, school nurse and coaches of their food allergy. Some foods, like peanuts, can produce a severe histamine reaction called "anaphylaxis" that can cause suffocation. This life-threatening allergic reaction can only be stopped with an injection of epinephrine and sometimes a second injection is necessary. Suggesting an allergen-free snack policy at your child’s school can also help eliminate food allergies in the classroom.
  • Red Rover Send Asthma Right Over – Common school activities, physical education exercises and playground games can trigger exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB). If your child has difficulty breathing during or after exercise, they could have EIB or asthma. Be sure to see an allergist for diagnosis and inform your child’s teachers of their symptoms and medications. Your child’s symptoms can also be tracked via an online journal at
  • Make New Friends and Keep the Furry Ones Away – While the classroom pet can teach your child about responsibility, it can also cause allergy and asthma flare-ups. Talk with your child’s teacher about housing a furless pet, such as a fish, frog or turtle. Peers with pets at home might carry dander on their clothing, triggering symptoms for your little one. Advise the teacher and ask for a new seating arrangement.

If your child is experiencing allergy and asthma symptoms, make an appointment with a board-certified allergist to develop a treatment plan and eliminate symptoms. Parents can track their children’s symptoms to aid in diagnosis and treatment by visiting

The ACAAI is a professional medical organization headquartered in Arlington Heights, Ill., that promotes excellence in the practice of the subspecialty of allergy and immunology. The College, comprising more than 5,700 allergists-immunologists and related health care professionals, fosters a culture of collaboration and congeniality in which its members work together and with others toward the common goals of patient care, education, advocacy and research. For more information visit

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