School children with asthma and food and venom allergy face uncertainty and challenges not experienced by most classmates. The average classroom, lunch room, playground, class party and athletic field is teeming with allergens capable of provoking asthma or allergy symptoms that students with these conditions must prevent and treat with vigilance and balance.
“It’s not possible nor necessary to put children in a bubble,” says Nancy Sander, President and Founder of Allergy & Asthma Network Mothers of Asthmatics (AANMA). “But it is necessary to take reasonable precautions to reduce risk, recognize when accidental exposures have occurred and treat them immediately with the right medications.”
“We want all school children, including those with asthma and anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction, to have full access to every academic and social opportunity available. It takes planning and good communication between the school and health care provider,” says Sally Schoessler, RN, BSN, MSEd, Director of Nursing Education at the National Association of School Nurses.
Stephen Conley, PhD, Executive Director of the American School Health Association, adds, “Student health plans and school policy should be based on medical evidence and the individual needs of each student. School nurses and administrators must receive annual or twice yearly training to make sure they know how to handle asthma and anaphylaxis emergencies before they happen.”
Parents are responsible for ensuring school emergency care plans get completed on time and accurately. AANMA offers these tips for families as children head back to school this fall:
- Anaphylaxis or Asthma Action Plan: Spells out what symptoms to should watch for, how to treat them and when to call for help. Make copies for school and backpack.
- Backpack medications include a bronchodilator (albuterol or levalbuterol) inhaler for asthma and two epinephrine auto-injectors for anaphylaxis: Up-to-date supplies of these life-saving medications for backpack and school clinic.
- Completed and signed school health forms: Include emergency contact info and permission to carry and self-administer asthma or anaphylaxis medication. Epinephrine, not antihistamines, is always the first line of treatment for anaphylaxis.
- Develop students’ self-confidence by helping them understand what sets off their symptoms and how best to protect themselves, and ask for help.
- Emergency training for school staff, bus drivers and after-school day care: Anaphylaxis Community Experts (ACE) Teams across the country bring FREE presentations to schools or community groups. Visit www.aanma.org/AnaphylaxisCommunityExperts to find out about this award-winning program, a joint project of AANMA and the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI).
- Find out more with the fall back-to-school issue of Allergy & Asthma Today – AANMA’s quarterly magazine, free to all AANMA members. Call 800-878-4403 to join today!