A national charity, Allergy UK, warns thousands of children could face health problems after returning back to school, due to their classroom 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.
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 is encouraging all UK schools to consider the impact of the learning environment on children with severe indoor allergies. If this trial is effective, the charity hopes it will set a precedent of what practical changes schools need to make in order to benefit allergic children’s learning.
 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.