To help students understand asthma and allergies (including the involvement of the immune system in each) and begin to understand the similarities and differences between the two health conditions.
Students at the 6-8 grade level should extend their study of the healthy functioning of the human body and ways it may be promoted or disrupted by diet, lifestyle, bacteria, and viruses. This lesson explores how disruptions to the body trigger asthma and allergies. It also explores the immune system, specifically its involvement in allergies and asthma.
This is an introductory, exploratory lesson. It provides students with resources to form a basic understanding of allergies, asthma, and the immune system, and allows for students to demonstrate their understanding in a creative way (by completing an art project showing what they have learned).
Write the word, "allergies" and ask students to share what comes to their minds. Allow students time to discuss what they already know about allergies. At this point in the lesson, students likely will be focused on their personal experiences (their own allergies, allergies of their friends/family, etc.).
Ask these questions to ensure a basic understanding of living with allergies:
- What are some symptoms of allergies?
- (Symptoms include swelling, congestion, and tearing up.)
- What are some things that people can be allergic to?
- (Some causes are pollen, animal dander, dust mites, certain medications, or foods.)
- What are some ways to avoid severe allergic reactions?
- (Answers could include a visit to an allergist to know what you're allergic to; avoiding triggers in the environment/what you're allergic to; knowing what to do and act quickly if you begin to have an allergic reaction.)
Now write the word "asthma" and ask students to share what comes to their minds. Allow students time to discuss what they already know about asthma—-again, students likely will be focused on their personal experiences (their own asthma or family/friends with asthma).
Now students should use their esheet to go to and read Asthma: Samantha's Story. Ask these questions to ensure a basic understanding of living with asthma:
- What are some symptoms of asthma?
- (Symptoms include a tight chest, difficulty breathing, and coughing/wheezing.)
- What are some potential causes of asthma attacks?
- (Some causes are being active, such as in sports-induced asthma; particular triggers such as strong perfume, cigarette smoke, pollen, animal dander; especially hot/humid weather; or especially dry, cold, or windy weather.)
- What are some ways to treat asthma?
- (Some ways to treat asthma include using an inhaler and taking pills/medication.)
Based on what students now know about allergies and asthma, ask them to describe some connections between the two health conditions. (Sample responses: both can be triggered by something specific in the environment; both are common and can be treated; in some cases, people with allergies also have asthma.)
Record students' thoughts here, for they will be revisited in the Assessment of the lesson.
Transition to the next section of the lesson by telling students that they will learn more details about both allergies and asthma, including specific similarities and differences between the two health conditions, and the role of the immune system in each.
Before continuing to learn more about asthma and allergies, tell students that the immune system plays a role in both of these conditions, and ask them what they already know about the immune system.
To learn more, have students use their esheet to watch the How the Body Works: The Immune System movie on the KidsHealth website.
To assess basic understanding of the immune system, you could have students take the Immune System Quiz on the KidsHealth website.
Note: While this lesson isn't focused on the immune system, students should learn enough to address this Benchmark: 6E The Human Organism: Physical Health (6-8) #4, which states: "White blood cells engulf invaders or produce antibodies that attack them or mark them for killing by other white cells. The antibodies produced will remain and can fight off subsequent invaders of the same kind."
Next, students should use the resources on the esheet to learn more about the immune system, allergies, and asthma. They should answer the questions on the accompanying Asthma and Allergies student sheet.
When students have completed the student sheet, divide them into two groups or several small groups with a few people in each (depending on the size of the class). Assign half of the students the topic of allergies and the other half the topic of asthma.
Have each group of students create a brochure (like what would be found in a doctor's office) that explains their assigned health conditions, being sure to address these factors:
- Description of the health condition, including an explanation of the immune system involvement/response
- List of potential environmental causes/triggers
- Ideas for how the health condition can be prevented/treated
The brochures should include text as well as illustrations. Also, to encourage students to think about how they would share the information with different audiences, you could ask students to target specific audiences with their brochures. For example, groups could design brochures for either rural or urban areas, children or adults (the type/level of information would need to be tailored for the different audiences).
The groups can use the resources on the esheet for the research phase of this project. Depending on the interest/level of students and amount of time you would like to devote to this project, you could allow students to do additional research and identify additional resources.
- Asthma and Allergies: The Science Inside publication, Part 2 (What are Allergies?) and Part 5 (How Can Allergies Be Treated/Prevented?)
- Allergies and Asthma
- All About Allergies
- Allergies and Asthma: They Often Occur Together
- Asthma and Allergies: The Science Inside publication, Part 1 (What is Asthma?) and Part 4 (How Can Asthma Be Treated/Prevented?)
- What Causes Asthma?
- The Asthma Wizard
- Allergies and Asthma: They Often Occur Together
When the brochures are complete, have the groups present them to the entire class.
Assess individuals/groups on their understanding of asthma and allergies based on their brochures/presentations.
Also, revisit the ideas the students generated during the Motivation section of the lesson about the connections between the two health conditions. Have students add to this list, ensuring that they are more specific about the connections/similarities/differences and have addressed the role of the immune system in each.
Finally, have students create a final section to their brochures, focused on how asthma and allergies are related. Depending on how you want to assess students, you could have them complete this in their groups or individually (allowing for an individual grade/assessment).
To learn more about asthma and allergies, students could access these Science NetLinks resources:
- Asthma and Allergies: The Science Inside
- Anti-Asthma Bug
- The Allergy Chronicles (intended for grades 9-12)
There is a lot of information for teachers or older/advanced students on The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) website. Check out these pages for information specifically related to this lesson: