Q. I'm a teacher, and one of my 5-year-old students is being dropped off and picked up from school in a stroller with a plastic covering over it. His mother says it's because he has asthma. Is this appropriate?
A. Cold weather can be a trigger for people who have asthma, says Dr. Punita Ponda of the Division of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology at Cohen Children's Medical Center in New Hyde Park. But there are other protective options than what this mom has chosen.
"We don't routinely tell our asthma patients, even for a young group, to cover their stroller with a plastic cover," Ponda says. "The other ways I've seen patients take care of a cold trigger is to cover their mouth and nose with a scarf. If he were my child, and that were enough, that's what I would do."
The concern is that the child may be ridiculed by his peers for riding in a stroller, even though the protection may actually be helping somewhat or may have been suggested by that family's physician. "Balance that with a 5-year-old in a stroller? That's a very personal decision for each family," Ponda says.
Wendi Fischer, a school psychologist in the Elwood School District, says if you're concerned about bullying, tactfully suggest a meeting with the mom, yourself and the school psychologist. The child's doctor also could be included in the discussion.
Say, "Now that he's older, can we brainstorm another way? He is a big boy and there may be another way to protect him and not have him stand out. He might be made fun of."
Remind the mom that kids naturally grow out of phases, and that he's probably outgrown a stroller. Say, "I'm sure he had outgrown shoes, and wears bigger-size clothing."
The trick is to make the mom feel comfortable and not put her on the defensive. "She's absolutely right, but maybe there's a better way to do it," Fischer says.