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How Allergies May Affect Learning and Development


According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation, more than 100 million people in the U.S. experience various types of allergies each year. There are many different theories as to why allergies seem to be on the rise among children and adults. No matter what might be causing this increase, once diagnosed, children who suffer from dietary or chronic seasonal allergies experience numerous side effects that may have harmful effects on their physical, mental, and cognitive well-being.


It is easy to see if a child has a runny nose, and they will usually tell you if their throat hurts. However, many of the initial side effects caused by allergies can go unidentified and thus unreported. For most of us, it is difficult to remember that the visible struggles caused by dietary and seasonal allergies such as a rash, hives, runny nose, sneezing, coughing, and watery eyes…are not the only symptoms the child may be dealing with. In addition to the common noticeable signs of allergies, children may suffer from other symptoms much harder to identify. Symptoms like:


  • Headaches, acute or chronic

  • Tinnitus symptoms (ear ringing)

  • Excessive blinking

  • Fatigue

  • Stress/anxiety

  • Anger/frustration

  • Isolation

  • Sadness/depression


It is understandable and assumed that a child’s physical health is naturally affected by their allergy symptoms; but there are other areas like learning and academics, as well as their social and emotional health that also suffer. Children affected by chronic ongoing allergies are often excluded from certain activities because of their diet, or perhaps they have trouble breathing when pollen counts are high and they can’t be outside for long periods. Children managing seasonal allergies often suffer from low energy levels, limiting their desire to participate in strenuous activities, which can lead to feelings of isolation, loneliness, and frustration.


Whether you are a parent or teacher, it is important to remember the big picture when working with children who are constantly coping with seasonal and dietary allergies. Don’t be afraid to remind your child’s teacher, grandparents, or any caregiver about their allergies and related symptoms, especially when unseen symptoms have been identified but may not be unrecognizable.


Be cognizant of the home/classroom environment & personal hygiene

Wash hands or change clothing frequently, especially after being outside. Try to keep your home/classroom environment free from pollen or food residue. Close the windows and use the air conditioner, if possible. Pay attention to pollen counts. Have children take a bath or shower before bed. Allow children to limit time and exposure to outdoor activities when pollen counts are extremely high.


School and Daycare Reminders

Parents should reach out to the school nurse if their child has any type of allergy. Read the handbook and get familiar with your school's policies and procedures regarding all medication, prescribed or over the counter. There are laws in place that allow students to carry specific medications. Keep an open dialogue with the school, and trust their process and professionalism. Provide all medications and EpiPens to your school’s nurse. Check the expiration dates. Make sure they are not expired or will not expire during the school year.


Make sure the school is aware of any of the following common allergies:



Seasonal allergies

Grass allergy

Ragweed/pollen allergy

Insects or insect venom

Mold

Dust or dust mites

Chemical (latex, bug spray, sunscreen)

Milk

Soy

Egg

Peanut

Tree nuts

Fish

Shellfish

Wheat

Sesame







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