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2 Your Well Being: Keep students safe from COVID-19, Allergy and Asthma Triggers

As school starts again, here’s how to keep students safe from COVID-19, while preventing kids with allergies and asthma from having flare-ups.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — We talk a lot about COVID-19 protocols in schools as parents once again try to determine how to keep their kids safe from the threat of coronavirus and the highly contagious delta variant. For parents of kids with allergies and asthma, preventing their kids from suffering flare-ups or extreme allergic reactions will also top their list of priorities.

Judy Broadnax is nervous about sending her two boys to school. She’s used to managing their allergies and being there to help them if something goes wrong.

“It’s very scary, especially when they’re not with you,” said Broadnax.

“One of them had fruit punch at daycare and had an anaphylactic reaction to that and his legs swelled up pretty bad. We had an accidental exposure to pecans and another anaphylactic reaction. Thankfully, I was there to give him his EpiPen and get him to the emergency room.”

This month, Broadnax is sending her sons Tahmir and Taj off to school with a list of nearly a dozen foods they can’t eat.

“Tahmir is allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, fish, squash, oranges, apples, pineapples, green beans, onions and I think that’s all that’s on his list and then Taj is allergic to eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, and milk,” said Broadnax.

Their list of foods to avoid automatically removes things you would normally see on a tray of school lunches. Yogurt, milk, apples, and oranges can cause a life-threatening reaction. PB&J and pizza are also not an option.

Cone Health Allergy and Immunology Physician Dr. Joel Gallagher says something as innocent as having those foods at the lunch table can put Tahmir and Taj at risk.

“Hives all over your body, throat itching, throat swelling, coughing, wheezing, vomiting, even abdominal pain,” said Dr. Gallagher.

Extreme cases require epinephrine or an EpiPen. In the worst-case scenario, it could mean a trip to the E.R. EpiPen’s are life-saving devices and are only available with a prescription.

Dr. Gallagher says if your child has a food allergy, make sure an EpiPen is part of your allergy action plan. You should hand your plan and your valid EpiPen to your child’s school nurse or front office on the first day of school.

“Anyone at school or at practice should be able to look at that allergy anaphylaxis plan and go through the steps if the student is having an allergic reaction,” said Gallagher.

Updated numbers released from the CDC shows 1 in 13 children or about 2 students in every classroom has a food allergy.

Most of them are allergic to one of these 8 foods.

Milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, soybean, and just added as the 9th major food allergen, sesame.

The plan for Tahmir and Taj is centered around a lot of communication between their mom and the school plus having that plan in place.

“With school, I just try to trust they’ll read over his list and make sure that they’re not feeding him snacks that he can’t eat,” said Broadnax.

Whatever it takes, she says, to keep her sons safe at school and out of the emergency room.