National charity warns of indoor allergy risk as children return to school
Allergy UK is warning thousands of children could face health implications after returning back to school, due to their school environment.
Certain floor coverings and soft furnishings within schools can harbour dust mites and other ‘indoor allergens’, exacerbating asthma, rhinitis and eczema symptoms, which are a huge worry for parents with children with respiratory and skin allergies and can have a detrimental effect on their child’s education. Around 90 per cent of children with these conditions are allergic to house dust mite allergen , whilst 65 per cent also react to cat allergen , which sticks to shoes and is therefore carried onto communal carpets.
With 50 per cent of children in the UK now suffering from allergies , some parents are well versed at managing indoor allergies within the home. However, they have less control over the management of their child’s condition whilst they are at school. The symptoms caused by indoor allergens contribute to disturbed sleep, seriously affecting concentration and attendance.
Respiratory allergies triggered by house dust mites cause symptoms such as itchy, runny or congested nose, sneezing, irritable lower airways and coughing, wheezy, tight chest as well as irritation and inflammation of the eyes, congested sinuses and headaches. The house dust mite allergen affects most children with eczema, causing irritation and scratching in bed, making their skin extremely sore and bleed, contributing to their lack of sleep.
Allergy UK’s Director of Clinical Services, Maureen Jenkins says: “Allergic children’s asthma, rhinitis and eczema is often made worse at school when they have to sit on carpets. To protect a dust-mite allergic child from the allergen (the protein in the mite’s faeces) there are practical things that can be done at school; vacuum carpets using Allergy UK approved products or replace with hard floor or textile flocked flooring specially developed not to harbour house dust mites. Children will also learn better in a well-ventilated, low humidity, cool room where clutter is kept to a minimum and stored away when not used.”
The national charity has teamed up with Forbo Flooring to trial an Allergy UK approved flooring at a primary school to see whether it will help improve the symptoms of allergic children that attend the school. Flotex flooring has been installed in a classroom at Meopham Community Academy in North Kent.
Linda Dwight, Business Manager, Meopham Community Academy said: “We currently have a pupil in year five who is under the care of Great Ormond Street Hospital for an allergic condition. The new carpet will not only help him this academic year but also other children with similar problems as they move through the Academy.”
Allergy UK hopes the project will benefit pupils that attend the school both now and in the future that suffer with allergy-related conditions.
Allergy UK is encouraging all UK schools to consider the impact of the learning environment on children with severe indoor allergies. If this trial is effective, it will set a precedent of what practical changes schools’ need to make in order to benefit allergic children’s learning.
However, the charity is reminding parents that it is essential to use an aggressively comprehensive management plan for these steps to be effective. At home, dust-mite allergic children should sleep in a well-ventilated room with suitable flooring and bedding. For advice on the other essential measures to protect from indoor allergens, see Allergy UK’s factsheet or call the charity’s national helpline on 01322 619898.
 de Bot CMA, Röder E, Pols DHJ, Bindels PJE, van Wijk RG, van der Wouden JC, Moed H. Sensitisation patterns and association with age, gender, and clinical symptoms in children with allergic rhinitis in primary care: a cross-sectional study. Prim Care Respir J 2013;22(2):155-160.
 Journal of Clinical & Experimental Allergy, 2009
Alison Parham (Senior Communications Officer) or Sophie Williams (PR Assistant), Allergy UK
T: 01322 611 655, E: firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to editors:
Allergy UK is the operational name of the British Allergy Foundation; the leading national medical charity providing advice, information and support to people with allergies and food intolerance. Allergy UK acts as the 'voice' of allergy sufferers, representing the views and needs of those affected by this multi organ disease. Allergy UK is a certified member of The Information Standard, which is an independent certification scheme for health and social care information supported by the Department of Health. For further information and to see a list of all certified members to the scheme, please visit: www.theinformationstandard.org
Allergy UK makes a difference by:
• Promoting wellbeing for people with allergy and food intolerance by providing information and support through our dedicated helpline
• Empowering people with allergy and food intolerance to manage their symptoms
• Enabling people with allergy and food intolerance to receive appropriate diagnosis and treatment through education of healthcare professionals and the provision of dedicated services
• Educating corporate bodies in the need for products suitable for allergy and food intolerance sufferers
• Conducting ongoing medical and social research into the causes and impact of allergy and food intolerance, and producing reports enabling us to lobby for better allergy services for sufferers.
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