Are Schools Prepared for Allergy Emergencies?
Posted by Shifrah on Friday, January 06, 2012
The death of a first-grader in Richmond, Virginia highlights the possible unpreparedness of schools to deal with allergy emergencies.

Ammaria Johnson had a peanut allergy. While out at recess, she broke out in hives and began complaining of shortness of breath. Though she was taken to the school clinic, they had nothing they could give her and called 911. Sadly, she didn't make it.

Head of the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network Maria Acebal says of the incident, "When consequences can be life-threatening, then you've got to have schools prepared for an allergic reaction. It's very straightforward. There is no magic to this. It's just proper education, how to recognize it, and how to treat it."

Since 8 percent of American schoolchildren have food allergies, it seems imperative that schools have on-hand the life-saving equipment and medication to treat a food allergy attack. But as Shawn Smith, spokesman for the Chesterfield County school district points out, although there are extensive guidelines for treating students with severe allergies, the parents of the allergic children must provide prescribed medication to the schools, along with a form authorizing the school to administer it if an emergency arises.

In the absence of these, the nurse attempts to make contact with the family in time to obtain and give medication – an outcome that seems unlikely given the speed with which allergic anaphylaxis can cause death.

To me, this whole situation seems like a tragic, bureaucratic gap in addressing the severe consequences of an allergy attack. Yes, health officials must know how to recognize an allergy attack, but it seems like we have to find a way to allow schools to carry and administer epinephrine when an allergic attack is evident and death is imminent.

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