Starting school with a severe food allergy
An estimated 10 Australians die from Anaphylaxis each year with 1 in 6 allergic reactions happening at school. The start of the school year may be an exciting time for most families but for those who have a child diagnosed with severe allergy it can be life threatening.
“Safe schooling is a major concern for parents, but with education and cooperation between the school, parents and doctor, school can be a safe place for children with anaphylaxis,” said Maria Said, President, Anaphylaxis Australia (AAI). “The main concern is that your child and their school carers are properly educated about the seriousness of this condition and know what to do if an emergency happens at school.”Life threatening emergencies occur in approximately 1 in 200 school age children, with 1 in 6 episodes occurring at school. While overall more children under the age of 5 have anaphylactic reactions, it is amongst school age children and teenagers that over 90 per cent of fatalities occur. “We recommend simple but effective strategies to help make your school environment a safer place for your child,” said Ms Said.Firstly, parents need to provide the school with the child’s up-to-date medical history, including an anaphylaxis action plan signed by the child’s doctor. Teachers and all carers must be educated so they can implement strategies which minimise risk to the child, recognise the signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis and act swiftly according to the child’s individualised anaphylaxis action plan in the case of an emergency. “Prompt administration of the EpiPen, which contains adrenaline, is crucial in an allergic emergency,” said Ms Said. “Adrenaline is the first line treatment for those who are diagnosed with severe allergy and it is vital that the child and all school staff know when and how to administer the medication.””Parents also have a responsibility to ensure that the EpiPen is within its expiry date and replaced when needed. A good source of information is EpiClub which was established as a resource for people living with anaphylaxis and provides a very important expiry date reminder service.” said Ms Said. “The child’s emergency medical kit should be clearly labelled and contain details of the action plan and all medication required. And most importantly schools need to arrange for medication to be kept in an easily accessible (unlocked) location so it can be promptly located in the case of an emergency” she said.Information for schools and parents is available from Anaphylaxis Australia 1300 728 000. “By working together we can effectively educate teachers, parents, carers and the public about the recognition, daily management and emergency treatment of children with life threatening allergies. The first year of school can be safe and ‘almost’ stress-free for all,” said Ms Said.(Source: Anaphylaxis Australia: January 2006.)