The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America reports more than 24 million Americans are now living with seasonal pollen allergies, and more than five million of those are kids.
Now, because of COVID-19, those kids may be facing another crisis in the classroom, repeatedly being sent home to quarantine and falling behind for having allergy symptoms that may be mistaken for COVID.
That’s what a Fresno family with two boys attending Clovis East High School now says it is facing.
Jacob Dunn says he has a problem with school quarantines. He has no problem with taking precautions to prevent COVID, but he says both of his two sons have allergies and the COVID quarantine policy is causing to miss classes.
“Any time my kids exhibit any symptoms whatsoever, the school sends them home and says they have to quarantine,” Dunn complained.
Dunn says the policy is putting them farther and farther behind in their classes with each quarantine and forcing them to work harder and harder to catch up while at the same time trying to keep up with current lessons.
“We had one instance where my wife had to call the school and said hey, my oldest is having a severe allergy day. He’s not going to be in. Without asking any further questions the school said oh he’s got symptoms of COVID and has to quarantine for ten days.”
It’s not hard to understand why. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), some early symptoms of COVID, like nasal congestion, runny nose, cough, sore throat and fatigue, are very much the same as symptoms of hay fever and seasonal allergy.
Those are the very kinds of symptoms teachers are encouraged to keep a close eye out for to protect their students and prevent the spread of COVID in their classrooms, but Dunn says the inability to differentiate and tell the difference is now hurting his kids and others like them who also suffer from allergies.
“I understand the schools being cautious and wanting to be sure the kids are being tested,” Dunn explained, but I’ve seen my kids’ grades drop because of it.”
Drop from A’s and B’s for most of their school years, Dunn says, down to C’s and D’s and nearly an F in one class.
“The counselors have been fairly good about getting back to us and there are still some teachers that you can really see care about the students and they’re doing everything they can. It’s just really having a huge negative effect on their ability to learn.
There appears to be no easy answer to this issue. A great many children have allergies here in the central valley, but if a teacher sees a child with symptoms that could be early signs of COVID, they must ask them to go on quarantine for the safety of the rest of the class and school.
FOX 26 News, contacted Fresno allergy specialist Dr. Praveen Buddiga with Buddiga Family Allergy, Skin, and Immunology.
Dr. Buddiga confirmed that the symptoms of seasonal allergy and early COVID are remarkably similar and cannot be reliably recognized without clinical testing, but Dr. Buddiga also pointed out that parents can help kids with allergies reduce those allergy symptoms with over-the-counter allergy medications available at your local drug store. That might help avoid the problem altogether.
Dr. Buddiga also recommends allergy testing and desensitization treatments that can help minimize allergic reactions.
FOX 26 News also spoke with Kelly Avants, Chief Communications Officer for the Clovis Unified School District.
Avants says parents of kids with allergies can get a note from their doctor or allergist and put it on file with their child’s school. In the event of their child showing symptoms, that could make a difference in determining whether the child would have to go home on quarantine or be tested.
Avants also says the district makes available tutors who can help kids who fall behind due to quarantine-related absences.
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