Guest Post by Paul Ehrlich, MD
When leaves are falling, mold spores begin to increase both indoors and out. At this time of year, air-temperature inversions -- warm air on top of cold -- occur both inside the classroom and out in the fresh air. Contaminants like dust and pollens build up at ground level because there’s less vertical air circulation, indoors and outside, bombarding little noses and lungs.
The start of heating season is always busy in our offices. This is when custodians fire up the furnaces, sweeping accumulated dust and mouse droppings from the heating ducts into the classroom. Windows are shut, to keep out cold air, but they trap allergens.
On top of these seasonal events, schools remain an allergen super- market: Chalk, pollens, pesticides, laboratory chemicals, sanitation supplies, perfumes, rodents, and cockroaches all make schools a 7- to 10-hour-a-day, year-round threat.
Asthma is complicated by the fact that there are many different “triggers” for an attack. Some are environmental, but there’s also something called “exercise-induced asthma” which can be triggered by activity in gym class. Any child who complains that exercise makes him cough and wheeze should take precautions. Likewise a child who has trouble when going from a warm school building to play outside in cooler air.
Then there are the issues with food allergies, but they are too complex to discuss here. You can find some very helpful ideas at asthmaallergieschildren.com, in particular this conversation between two experienced school nurses, at http://www.asthmaallergieschildren.com/2012/08/22/food-allergies-elementary-school-tips-for-parents-from-a-couple-of-veterans/.
All in all, allergies and asthma are taking an immense toll. They affect sleep, play, school performance, and the ability to hear spoken language and speak clearly. Asthma alone accounts for over 10 million missed school days per year, making it the leading cause of school absenteeism from chronic illness, yet only around ten percent of cases ever make it past the pediatrician’s office for treatment by a specialist, and half at most who are prescribed the proper medication take it as directed. We must do better.
Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com as well as an eBook from all major platforms), and co-founder and contributor to asthmaallergieschildren.com. An anthology of readings from the website will be published as an eBook later this fall.