High levels of allergens found in primary school classrooms

High levels of allergens have been found in primary school classrooms which may be triggering asthma attacks and other respiratory problems, leading researchers to advise schools to consider ripping up carpets in a bid to protect pupils with allergies.

Cat fur, pollen and peanuts are just some of the triggers that can cause rashes, breathing problems and other symptoms that can lead to life threatening complications.

"She gets hayfever, itchy red swollen eyes and then she gets hives but then she gets asthma symptoms and that's where it's hard to tell - is that anaphylaxis or asthma?" Sue Culver told Newshub.

Culver has tried to control allergens within her home but it's harder when her 11-year-old daughter goes to school.

"It's out of your control. You can keep them safe to a point, but even at home she has random reactions," she said.

Recent University of Otago research found cat allergens in the carpet of every primary school classroom it tested and a quarter of those had levels high enough to cause breathing problems.

Twenty-seven percent of the classrooms tested also had cow allergens while 60 percent had detectable levels of horse dander. 90 percent contained dust mite allergens but all at low levels.

Daily vacuuming does bring some respite but, according to the Wellington Asthma Research Group, there could be a more permanent solution.

"Schools should look at the option of replacing carpets with smooth flooring, as we know that smooth flooring has got significantly lower levels of allergens," director of research Rob Siebers told Newshub.

However, pulling up the carpet would be costly - roughly $5000 per classroom - and some schools have more than 30 of them.

"Things are tight. Look, cleaning the carpet is one thing but ripping it up to replace it would be a step most schools couldn't afford," principal of Willow Park School Craig Holt said.

New Zealand has one of the highest rates of childhood asthma in the developed world - one in seven children live with the condition - so any steps taken to reduce exposure to allergens in schools could make a real difference.




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