Local allergist shares back-to-school concerns

KNWA

"I know a lot of people are worried, but I think it's good that we have good plans in place that are using CDC recommendations," Dr. Merritt said.

BENTONVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — With the first day of school around the corner, there’s a lot of things to consider when it comes to COVID-19 safety, including how to protect kids with allergies and asthma.

Kids with food allergies and with asthma, I know that they do have some protocols in place but there are some extra considerations to consider.

DR. TINA MERRITT, ALLERGY & ASTHMA CLINIC OF NORTHWEST ARKANSAS 

Lots of people are on edge as we are now less than a month away from the first day of school, with still so many questions left unanswered.

Allergy & Asthma Clinic of Northwest Arkansas Dr. Tina Merritt said there is a lot to consider when it comes to kids with food allergies going back to school.

“When you’re doing the lunch in a different scenario each day, sometimes in the cafeteria and sometimes in the classroom, it’s harder to get control over what kind of exposures they are going to have,” she said.

Bentonville Schools Superintendent Dr. Debbie Jones said the district has a plan in place to make sure kids with allergies are protected — including thorough cleaning.

“Those kids with identified food allergies will have identified tables within the cafeteria, where they will eat safely everyday,” she said. “There will be tables identified within the classrooms that will never have food on them.”

Dr. Jones said she understands each student has different needs, but she’s confident everyone can work together to make sure all of them are met.

The word for the year is “flexibility” because we don’t know what this virus will bring, but we do know that we can pivot as we need to continue to provide education to all the students in our area.

DR. DEBBIE JONES, SUPERINTENDENT, BENTONVILLE SCHOOLS

Which is exactly what Dr. Merritt is hopeful for.

“I think people are being very mindful, but the plans are going to change over time, and I think we all have to be flexible with the change in plans,” she said.

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Dr. Merritt said in her opinion, kids with asthma are at an increased risk if they get COVID-19.

“They are at an increased risk if they get any type of viral infection,” she said. “We have to be considerate of even the common cold.”

If someone has asthma or is sensitive to chemicals… are they going to have any problems with the cleaning fluids?

DR. TINA MERRITT, ALLERGY & ASTHMA CLINIC OF NORTHWEST ARKANSAS 

Dr. Jones said the district will be following CDC guidance which is very specific for sanitizing buildings.

She said she is aware of all the many issues to consider with asthma, including the disinfectants used.

Below are some articles about managing asthma and food allergies at school during the COVID-19 pandemic, courtesy of Dr. Merritt:

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