So, your role is to help your child learn how to avoid situations where nuts or other food triggers might be. Reading food labels can help. So can asking questions about how food is prepared and what's in it. Teach your kid to never share foods with classmates and to move away if a fellow student is eating a food trigger nearby.
Another trigger your child may need to watch out for are stinging insects. If your kid is sensitive to insects, then teach him where and when to look for them, and how to avoid them safely, if they are encountered during play.
As mentioned above, latex can also trigger anaphylaxis in sensitive kids. Besides balloons, latex can be found in rubber bands, bicycle handgrips, pacifiers, and even rain boots. Make your child aware of all of the sources of latex if he is allergic.
Step 3. Protection: Fast Response & Effective Treatment Are Critical
Knowing all about anaphylaxis and how to avoid reactions go a long way toward keeping your child safe from anaphylaxis at school. But, no matter how careful you and your child are, there is still a chance that he or she may experience anaphylaxis at some point. So, it's important for your child to know what to do if anaphylaxis at school does happen.
The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network teaches the "3 Rs for Treating Anaphylaxis":
- Recognize symptoms.
- React quickly.
- Review what happened so you can figure out ways to prevent it from reoccurring.
As a parent, you role is to help your child with each of these steps. We've already covered the symptoms of anaphylaxis. Knowing them will make it easier for your child to know when anaphylaxis is starting so that he or she can get treatment quickly, if needed.
You'll also need to teach your child how / when to ask for help (such as asking for an epinephrine injection). This will require your child to have auto-injectable epinephrine on hand at all times, whether in the classroom, at the cafeteria, in the gym or even outside. In addition, it's a good idea to keep extra syringes in the nurse's office.
In most states today in the United States, "right to carry" laws allow kids to have asthma inhalers and to use them on their own (without the school nurse), if needed. They may also be allowed to carry auto-injectable epinephrine with them in school, if needed. So, most parents should be able to arrange this for their kids. If you run into opposition, ask to speak with the school nurse or even the principal so that you can advocate for your child's health and safety.
Sometimes parents and school officials are reluctant to use epinephrine injections when anaphylaxis emergencies arise. But, keep in mind that when you weigh the risks of giving an injection unnecessarily against the possibility of death from unpromptly treated anaphylaxis, there is no question as to the right way to go. The treatment of anaphylaxis at school may not be able to wait until the child gets to the ER or even until emergency workers arrive at the school. When anaphylaxis begins, epinephrine needs to be given immediately.
Young children should probably not be tasked with giving epinephrine to themselves, as deciding when it is actually needed may be beyond their maturity. However, parents who believe their students are mature enough to handle the responsibility should strongly consider teaching them how to give themselves epinephrine.
Practicing giving the injection can be helpful when caregivers or kids lack confidence. The AANMA booklet has a great tutorial and quite a few helpful tips on how to use epinephrine. One thing to keep in mind is that the best place to give epinephrine is in the front of the thigh, right through clothing if necessary.
As an added precaution, kids who are known to have anaphylactic reactions should wear a MedicAlert bracelet.
Every child has the right to a safe environment, whether in school or at home. This includes protection from anaphylaxis at school too. As a parent, it is your job to advocate for your child so that he or she can be safe even when not under your direct supervision. So, take every step you can to learn how you can help your child avoid an anaphylaxis emergency. And if one should occur, make sure your child knows how to ask for help and that caregivers know how to respond.
"Tips to Remember: What is anaphylaxis?." 2007. 29 Apr 2008.
"Fact Sheet: Food Allergies and Reactions." 06 May 2008.
"What medication is used to treat an anaphylactic reaction?." 06 May 2008.