After a young boy in Spokane experienced anaphylaxis, a serious allergic reaction, and died from eating a peanut butter cookie, schools in the state began to take measures so that this would never happen again. The incident occurred while the nine-year-old was on a school field trip. No one was prepared to handle the emergency.
Law Requires Schools to Develop Programs
The schools in Washington took several steps to make sure that children with allergies to peanuts would be safe while they were in school. A law was passed requiring schools to establish plans to educate teaching staff and others working with children to recognize allergic reactions and to know how to deal with these if they happened. Teachers and other staff members were taught methods for recognizing and treating anaphylaxis. If workers who are in contact with children as they eat know the symptoms of an allergic reaction, they are more likely to be able to help the child undergoing the distress from eating a peanut product.
Learning to Recognize Symptoms of a Reaction
School staff members are taught to recognize signs of a reaction to a peanut allergy. They learn that symptoms typically happen within 15 or 20 minutes of eating the peanuts, but that a reaction could occur hours after eating it. They learn to recognize respiratory problems such as difficulty breathing or if a student feels as if he is choking, and to look for hives on the child. The child may develop runny eyes and a runny nose but did not have any symptoms before eating. If a teacher sees a child’s behavior change suddenly, or if he develops any symptoms, precautions are to be taken and emergency care is to be provided if needed.
School Staff Trained to Deal with Emergency
If staff notices any allergy symptoms in a student, they are to call the school nurse immediately. All children with a peanut allergy should have an auto-injector with Epinephrine at school if their allergist has prescribed this treatment. Children typically keep one auto-injector in the school office or in the nurse’s office and one at home. If the staff along with the young boy who died would have had an auto-injector with them, the boy would probably still be alive today.
Schools in Washington have taken different measures to safeguard children. All cafeteria food must be labeled carefully to ensure that it is peanut-free, and some schools have peanut-free lunchroom tables for children with food allergies to use. Other schools have requested that parents of all children, even those without allergies do not send peanut food items to school in their child’s lunch or for treats for the class.