Food allergies are a reality in schools across the country. There are more individuals in schools today who have a food allergy. While some may not be severe, others may be life-threatening. These individuals may need a lifesaving epinephrine injection given to them immediately. What happens if a school nurse is not in the building? This is something which administrators, school nurses, and teachers must be aware of. They need to check into the law and who is allowed to give a child a dose of epinephrine if an emergency arises and the school nurse is not there.
Allergy Awareness is Critical
Recent research from the American Academy of Pediatrics shows that 24% of 1,200 school nurses have had to use epinephrine with a student in need in the last year. It was also noted that 34% of these nurses were working in more than one school building. This means that unlicensed school staff members must act in an emergency and give epinephrine to a student before first responders are able to arrive.
This shows the importance of allergy awareness and education. The first step in this process is to make sure that families at home clearly report to school nurses about any known allergies. This should include food and anything else which a child may encounter within the academic day. Foods, insects, chemicals, and even rodents are factors that may be problematic for those with severe allergies.
Practice Allergy Protocol
Once information has been given to the school nurse, there needs to be proper protocol on how to get this to other adults who have contact with each child. This must include all teachers, lunch aids, hall monitors, and others who may be with a child during a potential allergy emergency. All individuals need to be shown what to do in an emergent situation.
Some schools have an individual from a local allergists office come in to talk at a faculty meeting or professional development day. This is the perfect time to reach as many people as possible. They are able to answer more specific questions which people may have. They may also share how important it is to act fast when a student is experiencing anaphylaxis. Itching in the mouth, trouble breathing, and similar symptoms must not be ignored. Within the meetings, it may also be a good time to share how to administer epinephrine and practice this on others.
Take time now to go over what your school does with allergy awareness. Are all individuals informed about potential student allergies? Be aware of what state and local laws may be when it comes to who is or is not allowed to give epinephrine. Does your school have a plan? Please share how you have worked on this very important topic.