In the wake of a 7-year-old girl’s death at school due to a peanut allergy reaction, many people have called into question schools’ ability to handle severe food allergies. In this most recent incident, school officials are still investigating whether the school’s staff was adequately trained to handle allergic reactions.EmaxHealthasks how prepared our schools are to handle children with food allergies or other life-threatening health conditions.
According to FAAN, the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network, as many as 8% of kids have a food allergy. There is no cure for food allergies; the only way to avoid a reaction is strict avoidance of the allergen. With most kids eating at least one meal each day at school, there is a significant risk that they will come into contact with a food allergen. Although parents of children with food allergies often work closely with school personnel to ensure that students and teachers are aware of the allergy, and enact a care plan providing instructions in case of an allergic reaction, accidents do happen.
In the case of a severe allergic reaction, epinephrine should be provided as quickly as possible to reverse the symptoms. Unfortunately, in the case of the recent death of 7-year-old Ammaria Johnson, the school had no epinephrine – commonly provided in the form of an EpiPen auto injector – on hand to give her. Her parents had not provided an EpiPen for her use, and the school nurse was prohibited from giving her medication prescribed for another student.
This case has led to calls for schools to keep EpiPens on hand. FAAN is currently working to pass legislation that would require schools to have epinephrine for allergic reactions. Known as the ‘School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act,’ it could help to reduce the number of food allergy deaths occurring in schools.