How to Prepare for Managing Allergies at College
New environments are always a risk for allergen exposure, and this is definitely the case with college dorms. Whether your child has food allergies or environmental allergies, there are several steps to prepare him or her for college life and know how to deal with allergies at school.
1. Research your child’s allergy resources at college.
Before you start packing for college, contact the school to learn about the campus health services. Based on your child’s individual needs, you may consider the following:
● Are health services staffed or available 24/7?
● Does the school offer nebulizer treatments?
● Does the college provide transportation to a nearby hospital or urgent care center?
● What health resources are available in the community?
Talk to your doctor about what you learn so you can collaborate to create a treatment and emergency plan for allergies at school.
Depending on your child’s health needs and how soon you start your research, the information you find may even influence the choice of college or dorm room.
2. Research local or regional allergy risks.
If your child has seasonal allergies, it can be a good idea to get familiar with the biggest allergy triggers around the school. A simple web search for that city’s allergy calendar can give you a breakdown of all the suspects. This can help you and your child know what time of year may be the worst for allergies at school.
The new location may also change the risk of environmental allergies, as well. For example, a more urban environment may have more air pollution triggers. If the college is in a more damp or humid climate than your home, mold triggers may be more severe. Research has found that dampness in college dorms can trigger allergies at school.
3. Pack allergy essentials for college.
Make sure your child packs plenty of allergy medication for college. Keep over-the-counter pills, tablets, or nasal sprays within easy access. Make sure prescriptions, including inhalers, are up-to-date and filled before moving in to the dorm. Make a plan for refilling any prescriptions.
For environmental allergies, certain products can help make the dorm room more comfortable. Allergy-friendly mattress covers can block dust mites, mold, and mildew from aggravating your child’s allergies at school. Be sure to purchase the appropriate cover size.
If there is space, and if the college allows it, consider purchasing an air purifier for environmental and seasonal allergies. The purifier should have a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter.
Make sure your child is prepared to do some housekeeping to reduce allergens. Pack at least two sets of bedding so they can be changed frequently to prevent buildup of allergens such as mold and dust mites. Avoid letting the dorm room get too cluttered, which can encourage dust. Keep food in closed containers to discourage cockroaches and other pests.
4. Let people know about your child’s allergies at school.
If your child has asthma or is vulnerable to allergies at school, make sure his or her roommate and residence assistants (RAs) know. Roommates can help keep dorm rooms clean, and can be warned against exposing your child to smoke, perfumes, and other triggers.
In case of food allergies, cultivate a relationship with the school’s dining services. Food allergies may be covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act, so you or your child should contact the school’s disability services office to let them know of your child’s food-allergy needs.
Parties, dating, and other college experiences may make food allergies difficult to navigate. Encourage your child to develop a plan for managing food allergies in the new environment. Discuss the importance of maintaining an allergy-friendly diet, and create a Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Emergency Care Plan. Share this plan with RAs, as well as roommates and close friends.
5. Make sure your child’s allergy tests and treatments are up-to-date.
If you’ve never done so, or if it has been several years, have your child get allergy testing to know what he or she is allergic to. Make sure the clinic tests for allergens that are most prevalent in the college town. Even without allergy treatment afterwards, your child will know more about their allergy triggers and how to avoid them.
At Texan Allergy & Sinus Center, we can test and treat adults and children as young as 4 months old for up to 58 environmental and seasonal allergens. (Children under 2 years old, however, have a limited testing panel.)
Once your child received a skin test for environmental or seasonal allergies, we can help develop an allergy treatment plan. Immunotherapy treatment with either allergy shots or allergy drops are safe and effective for long-term allergy relief.
Contact us today to make an appointment and start creating an allergy treatment plan for your college student.