Now that flu season has passed, it is time to acknowledge spring’s presence—and with that comes seasonal allergy symptoms. This time of year, when the pollen casts a radioactive-yellow hue onto car windows, swing sets, and anything else outdoors, many students start experiencing an entirely new type of discomfort.
For those of us who really don’t know exactly what is causing these pesky symptoms, some fast facts about seasonal allergies might shed some light on why this time of year can be such a nuisance and how to manage the symptoms. Seasonal allergies are often at their peak when the weather makes a drastic change from winter to spring or summer to fall. Microscopic mold spores and pollen particles are released into the air we breathe when trees, plants, and flowers start to bud, making it nearly impossible to avoid the tickling, scratching, itching, watering, running, wheezing symptoms when outdoors. Tree, grass, and weed pollen are likely culprits during allergy season; however, mold spores, often released starting in July and lasting through the fall, are common allergens as well.
Symptoms and effects in the classroom
Symptoms and levels of severity vary from child to child. Additionally, seasonal allergies can develop at any point; children can suddenly experience allergy symptoms at any age, even if they have never shown allergy symptoms before. Common symptoms include:
- Itching, watery, bloodshot eyes, which could develop into something called “allergic pink eye,” which resembles typical conjunctivitis
- Itchy nose, tongue, or throat
- Sinus congestion and/or runny nose with possible nose bleeds
- As far as impacts in the classroom, students with severe allergies may be affected in the same way that a severe cold or flu might be an interruption to learning:
- With severe symptoms, students may be distracted or unable to focus because of their discomfort.
- They may be lethargic or fatigued if symptoms persist through the night at home, negatively impacting their sleep and resulting in sluggishness at school.
- Students may ask to carry water bottles or throat lozenges for the itchy throat/irritation.
- It could be helpful to seat students closer to the door for easy access to the restroom if they need a tissue; this will also reduce the distractions to others if students are constantly blowing their noses or sneezing.
- If allergic conjunctivitis is a symptom, students may need to visit the nurse periodically for eye drops or to clean/rest their red, itchy eyes. They may also need to sit closer to the board if discharge from the pink eye blurs one’s vision.
- Students who miss class or school all together may need a temporary accommodation to grant them extended time, reduced workload, teacher notes, etc.
- It is also a good idea to allow liberal use of the bathroom and/or water fountain, so long as the hall passes are not being abused and time missing instruction is minimal.
- Prompt students to wash their hands and face when coming inside after recess, outdoor practices, or PE classes. The tiny pollen particles land on and stick to eye lashes, eye brows, facial hair, etc., which further exacerbates one’s symptoms. Makeup wipes are a good suggestion for after outdoor activities as well. They quickly remove sweat, pollen, dust, animal fur, and mold that may have accumulated on the face while outside.
- Encourage students to change completely out of PE clothes after an outdoor class. Again, pollen around the neck of a T-shirt or sweatshirt is going to have easy access to airways into the body.
- If possible, use air conditioning when pollen counts are high instead of opening classroom windows.