Table of Contents
Subject Index  
Related Links
About the Authors
Submit Comments
1-03: Informing families about health/safety programs, policies
3-06: Outdoor safety for physical activity
5-01: Clean, safe, enjoyable meal environment
5-05: Meals: nutrition standards, special needs, appeal
  > View All Chapter Guidelines  
Children's Environmental Health Network
Provides a resource guide for children's environmental health.
Environmental Protection Agency
Environmental Protection Agency
For information on daily air quality across the United States.
Environmental Protection Agency - "Tools for Schools" including renovations
Environmental Protection Agency - Additional School-Specific Matters and Resources
Environmental Protection Agency - Exhaust Fumes
Environmental Protection Agency - School Buses
Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network
Information on managing food allergies in schools.
Mycological Aspects of Indoor Environmental Quality
National Coalition for Food Safe Schools
Represents a number of national organizations, associations, and government agencies. Resources for reducing food borne illness by improving food safety in schools.
School Indoor Air Quality Questions and Answers Web site
  > View All Chapter Related Links  
6-13 - Indoor/outdoor allergens, irritants, air quality

Develop and enforce policies that minimize exposure to indoor and outdoor allergens and irritants for students and staff.


Reducing exposure to allergic triggers is a school's responsibility. Enforcing policies helps to prevent life threatening events and to keep students and staff with sensitivities free of symptoms and better able to carry out their academic functions.


Allergies to foods, insect stings, medications and latex puts approximately 3% of students at risk for severe allergic reactions. Dust mites, pollen, cockroach droppings, molds, animal saliva, urine, and dander are common allergic triggers that cause less severe reactions. Asthma can be exacerbated by these allergens, by tobacco smoke, and by strong odors. Include specific environmental precautions in allergic students' individualized health services plans. On days with high pollen counts and/or pollution levels (e.g., smog, ozone), physical activities for sensitive individuals may need to be conducted in a controlled indoor environment (Appendix E). Retrofit buses and reduce idling to minimize students' exposure to vehicle emissions. Use vinyl or nitrile gloves, rather than latex, in handling food, in laboratories, and in caring for special-needs children.

To decrease fungal and pollen exposure in mechanically ventilated buildings, keep windows closed and use efficient filters. Periodically disinfect locker rooms because fungi often grow in moist environments. Regulate the relative humidity of the air (e.g., via insulation, dehumidification, source control, temperature control). Unless carpeting is necessary and unless its composition and schedule of maintenance minimize dust, mold, and chemical irritants, consider hard surfaces instead of carpets. Avoid unnecessary accumulation of materials in classrooms and hallways that collect dust and harbor molds.

Limit exposure to animal allergens by minimizing animal presence in classrooms (Guideline 6-10). Weigh risk of allergen exposure against risk of pesticide exposure. Implement pest control strategies (e.g., rats, mice, cockroaches, flies mosquitoes) by controlling food sources and moisture and by using specific pesticides or other "integrated pest management" methods. Recognize that many staff and students are in contact with animals and carry allergens on their clothing to school. Do not require students with certain animal allergies to take field trips to zoos or farms or to be exposed to animals (e.g., science projects). Because school renovations that produce dust can aggravate asthma, schedule renovations when students are not present.

Some districts prohibit all students from bringing a food item to school (e.g., nuts) when a fellow student is allergic. Although this is one management strategy and proves useful on celebratory occasions when food is brought from homes, it is difficult to enforce, often provides a false sense of security, and is not recommended by the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network. Setting aside a meal table for selected food allergic students is more restrictive but generally safer than relying on all students' parents to read food labels for hidden allergic ingredients. In addition to the allergic child, educate all students, lunch monitors, and other staff on ingredient avoidance. Prohibit sharing of foods and eating on buses. Keep potential allergic foods, such as those with nuts as an ingredient, off of school food service menus and out of vending machines.


American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Board of Directors. Anaphylaxis in schools and other childcare settings: position statement. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 1998;102:173-176.

Institute of Medicine, Committee on the Assessment of Asthma and Indoor Air. Clearing the Air: Asthma and Indoor Air Exposures. Washington DC; National Academy Press; 2000.

Korniewicz DM, El-Masri M, Broyles JM, Martin CD, O'connell KP: Performance of latex and nonlatex medical examination gloves during simulated use. Am J Infect Control. 2002 30(2):133-8.

Rego A, Roley L. In-use barrier integrity of gloves: latex and nitrile superior to vinyl. Am J Infect Control. 1999 27(5):405-410.

Smedje G, Norback D. Irritants and allergens at school in relation to furnishings and cleaning. Indoor Air. 2001;11:127-133.

Taras H, Campana J. How one school district decided on a carpet policy. J Sch Health. 2003; 73:45.

Tortolera SR, Bartholomew LK, Tyrrell S, et al. Environmental allergens and irritants in schools: a focus on asthma. J Sch Health. 2002;72:33-38.

US Environmental Protection Agency. IAQ Tools for School Kits. Washington, DC: US Environmental Protection Agency; 2000. Available at:

US Environmental Protection Agency. Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Buildings. Washington DC: US Environmental Protection Agency; 2001. Available at:

Site Map | Contact Us | Privacy Statement | About Us | Home
American Academy of Pediatrics, 141 Northwest Point Blvd., Elk Grove Village, IL, 60007, 847-434-4000