Tips to manage asthma and allergies at school

If you are the parent of a child with asthma or allergies, you know how difficult it can be to manage triggers outside of your home. 

School buildings are often havens for asthma and allergy triggers. Children are particularly vulnerable to these harmful pollutants. Given that children in developed nations spend an average of 200 days per year in school buildings, emphasis on school Indoor Air Quality should be a front-and-center issue. 

Studies by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) show that it is common for indoor pollution levels in classrooms to be two to five times higher than outside. 

Sources of poor Indoor Air Quality in schools

There are several sources of air pollution in schools. These sources can differ depending on the age of the school building. Newer school buildings tend to be tightly sealed and lack sufficient ventilation. The use of synthetic building materials and furniture that off-gas chemicals, such as formaldehyde, is also a problem. Issues in older schools range from lead, asbestos and radon contamination, to mold caused by leaky roofs and dust from crumbling walls. Many schools, whether in new or old buildings, are located dangerously close to heavily trafficked roads and freeways. Particulate matter from vehicles, especially diesel exhaust, pose a threat to children's health. Other airborne pollutant sources include chemicals in cleaning products and pesticides used in and around school buildings.1

Animal-free doesn’t mean animal allergen-free

Numerous studies have shown that animal allergens can be present in environments where there are no animals. Studies have also demonstrated that allergen levels in schools where no pets are present can be even higher than in homes with pets. This is particularly problematic for sensitized children who do not have pets at home.

Allergen levels in schools where no pets are present can be even higher than in homes with pets. There is strong evidence that clothing is the primary way pet allergens travel. Human hair can also transport pet allergens among school children.2

Dust mite allergens in schools

Dust mites are close relatives of ticks and spiders. They thrive in and on mattresses, bedding, upholstered furniture, carpets, drapes and curtains. Dust mite droppings and their decomposing bodies are a major allergen affecting allergy and asthma sufferers. Studies show that dust mite allergens are present in many schools and daycare facilities, Reported levels are often similar or slightly lower than in corresponding local homes. Carpeting and upholstered furnishings are important reservoirs and sources of exposure in schools and daycare centers, particularly in humid regions. Learn more about dust mite allergens here.

Cockroach and rodent allergens in schools

Cockroach and rodent allergens are commonly detected in inner-city and rural schools. Studies of U.S. schools found detectable levels of cockroach allergen in 71 percent of vacuumed dust samples from classrooms.3 A study found mice allergens in 99.5 percent of school samples, Another study found mice allergens in 99.5 percent of school samples. Children exposed to mouse allergens in schools experienced more asthma symptoms and lower lung function after adjusting for variation in exposures at home. Airborne cockroach and mouse allergens are also found in airborne samples. Not surprisingly, the highest levels of these allergens are usually where there is food.4

Dustless chalk can trigger milk allergies?

Although not as common these days chalk dust is a common classroom allergen and asthma trigger. Rightfully, many school teachers are now opting for dustless chalk. Casein is a milk protein often used in low-powder chalk. Milk-allergic children who inhale particles with casein can suffer asthma attacks and other respiratory issues.5