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  • How to Make Your Schools More Allergy-Friendly

    Take your indoor air quality advocacy to the next level with tips from the American Lung Association’s Asthma-Friendly Schools Initiative.

    Since the COVID-19 pandemic, getting better air quality in schools has been top-of-mind for many families—but for parents of children with asthma or allergies, it’s always been a concern. Whether they’re sensitive to the pollen they could encounter during recess or to the dust floating around stuffy classrooms, the potential for a child to have allergy symptoms or an asthma attack is always there.

    That’s why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Division of Adolescent and School Health created the Asthma-Friendly Schools Initiative (AFSI). The goal is to encourage families and educators to work together to get cleaner indoor air at school. These standout tips can help your school district get better air and keep kids breathing easier.

    • 1. Work with your school nurse to create an allergy action plan.

      Based on the AFSI’s asthma action plan, regular contact with your school nurse can ensure that the school is informed of your child’s needs if they have an asthma attack or allergy symptoms. The action plan should be a written document that describes your child’s triggers, symptoms, medicines, how to keep symptoms from worsening and emergency contact information.¹ If you share this strategy with other parents and guardians, it can also help spark a culture of awareness around the importance of allergy and asthma management in your school.

      2. Educate school staff on asthma and allergies.

      Asthma alone is responsible for more than 10 million missed days of school in the U.S. and is linked to lower academic performance in kids.² Encouraging staff education can boost your confidence in your school’s ability to provide adequate attention and care in case of an allergy flare-up or asthma attack. Some ways to share resources: Attend school board meetings or email your school district. The ASFI has templates for a letter to the school district about asthma education (PDF, 275 KB), an outline for a school board presentation (PDF, 282 KB) and more.

      3. Find out what kind of cleaning products your school is using.

      A lot goes into maintaining a school building, which means there could be ample opportunity for administration to make allergen- and asthma-friendly cleaning swaps. Find out what kinds of products are being used to clean, and whether they contain volatile organic compounds that can reduce indoor air quality and aggravate allergy symptoms.³ The Environmental Protection Agency’s “Safer Choice” products list features commercial-grade cleaning agents for your school to consider.

      4. Work one-on-one with your child’s teacher.

      It can take time for your school district to take action on indoor air quality and allergy-friendly initiatives. Staying in direct communication with your child’s teachers can help you bring better indoor air to your school, one classroom at a time. Maybe you ask if they’ll learn more about the importance of good air quality in classrooms, or that they check the Air Quality Index before opening windows to increase ventilation. The more people you make aware of the importance of indoor air quality in schools, the more of an asthma- and allergy-friendly place your school can be.

      Want more guidance on working with your school district to get better indoor air quality in school? Get more tips from the ALA here.

      Sources

      1. “Create an Asthma Action Plan,” American Lung Association. 2021.

      2. “Asthma-Related School Absenteeism, Morbidity, and Modifiable Factors,” National Library of Medicine. 2016.

      3. “Volatile Organic Compounds' Impact on Indoor Air Quality,” Environmental Protection Agency. 2022.

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