Spring is finally here! While we are excited to see more sunshine and longer days, it is also the time of year that pollen begins to bloom. We know that approximately 10% of kids will react to pollen by experiencing nasal congestion, post-nasal drip or sneezing. As we prepare for the return of many public school children to in-person learning, it is important for families to consider how this allergy season will be different than any other spring in our history.
In order to keep in-person learning environments as safe as possible, the Department of Health has instructed schools to screen all students and staff each morning for any signs of COVID. Fortunately, COVID infection in a healthy child can be mild. Unfortunately, this means it will be hard for school staff to look at your child and know whether their symptoms are due to allergies or illness. Schools will have to err on the side of caution as an outbreak could mean they have to close again.
DOH Guidelines instruct schools to send students home if they have concerning symptoms. As a parent, you may worry that your child will never be allowed to attend if they have seasonal allergies or some other non-infectious cause for a cough or congestion/runny nose. We are here to help. Here is some guidance on what to expect if your child has new symptoms, well-established allergies or asthma, or a rare cause of a chronic non-contagious cough.
- If your child has new onset symptoms or symptoms that have never been evaluated by one of our providers, you will be asked to schedule an appointment at our Bellevue office. We offer a rapid COVID PCR test that is accurate (98% sensitive and 99% specific) within the first 5 days of new symptoms. If negative and/or your child’s exam is consistent with another cause of their symptoms, we will provide a note to help your child return to school as soon as is safe for them and others. We believe it is important to minimize the time your child’s school routine is disrupted.
- If your child has well-established seasonal allergies or asthma, your primary care provider (PCP) will recommend specific treatment to minimize or eliminate symptoms this season. For example, it might be appropriate to use an allergy spray or antihistamine so that your child does not have to change their mask multiple times at school due to frequent sneezing. Likewise, children with asthma should not cough during a school day unless triggered. If pollen or exercise is causing them to cough most days, we recommend an appointment to discuss how to minimize asthma symptoms so your child’s lungs can function as normally as possible. If your child has had their annual well-check, a Virtual Visit with their PCP is a good option.
- If your child has a rare cause of chronic non-contagious cough, like primary ciliary dyskinesia, your PCP can write a note to communicate with your school nurse/teacher to allow your child to attend. If their baseline symptoms change or increase, then you will be asked to come in for COVID testing and evaluation, as COVID is still circulating in our community.
If your child has not had an annual well-check with their primary care provider, now is a good time to schedule an appointment. This allows us to work with you to make your child’s return to in-person school is as successful as possible.