Handling the Needs of a Student With Life-Threatening Allergies
|Vol. 10 No. 7|
The headlines are common, like this one: “Student’s Death Spotlights Food Allegies in School.” Just a couple of months ago, a seven-year-old girl in a Virginia school died when she suffered from a severe allergic reaction to a peanut product. This tragedy brought into question responsibility. According to county school and health officials, the parent must provide the medication. According to the girl’s mother, she provided the school with an “allergy action plan” to administer Benedryl if her daughter had a reaction. She said she tried to provide an EpiPen (epinephrine) to the school but was told to keep it at home.
Read the full story reported by CBS News here.
In Florida, a school’s very strict rules to protect a young student are causing an uproar. The rules are so strict—such as requiring all students to wash their hands and mouths after lunch, and no outside food is permitted—that parents are protesting, claiming the child should be homeschooled. (“How Far Should Schools Go to Protect a Student’s Allergy?” opinion published on the The Week Web site.)
As school Head, you know how important it is to protect your students and make sure your school is a place they can feel safe. This includes protection from allergic reactions. However, what is the best way to do that? Of course, you need to have all the information about a student’s allergy and what accommodations are needed to protect the student.
The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network has a variety of guidelines for schools, camps, shelter-in-place (in the unlikely event of an emergency that would “lockdown” a school), and state-by-state guidelines. These guidelines place responbilities on all parties—the family, the school, and the student.
Parent responsibilities include notifying the school, developing an accommodation plan with the school, and providing medical records and medication, for example.
The school is responsible for such points as reviewing medical records, identifying a core team of personnel to work with the parents on a prevention plan, educating staff on the allergy and action plan, and training school personnel to administer the medication, to name a new things.
There are also student responsibilities, including not trading food with other students, not eating anything with unknown ingredients.
You can access and download all of the guidelines here.
Students may also need to carry such medication as the EpiPen, depending on various factors. The National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (part of the National Institutes of Health) has provided a list of factors in consider when a student or family asks permission to carry the medication. Appropriate age, maturity, and developmental level as well as signs and symptoms recognition are among the areas to consider. The link for the complete guidelines is here.
Additional resources of interest
Additional Resources for ISM Consortium Gold Members