SEPT. 28, 2012, McLean, VA – What would you do if faced with a child experiencing a life-threatening allergic reaction? It’s a question Allergy & Asthma Network Mothers of Asthmatics’ national network of Anaphylaxis Community Experts, or ACE Teams, pose in free training programs for educators, families and policymakers across the country.
Knowing the answer could save a life and a lifetime of regret.
“Allergies, particularly food allergies, can be deceiving,” says Nancy Sander, President and Founder of Allergy & Asthma Network Mothers of Asthmatics (AANMA). “That’s why we urge states to strengthen school laws to address staff training for anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction, and how to handle unpredictable emergencies.”
How would you finish this story?
You are on playground duty and a wide-eyed student running toward you collapses. His lips are swollen. He’s sweating. A half-eaten cookie is on the ground. You lift his shirt and he’s peppered in hives. His pulse is rapid but weak.
You suspect anaphylaxis because of the training course you took two months ago but he’s not on the list of at-risk students. You have two epinephrine auto-injectors prescribed for another student in your emergency kit but nothing authorized for use with this student.
There is no school nurse on duty. You call the principal to get instructions but the secretary says she is off-site at a meeting. You tell her to call 911. She says she will get authorization from the assistant principal who is conducting teacher evaluations at the moment. Classmates are gathered around. Some crying. The playground aide takes the children inside, promising to return with help.
What would YOU do?
“School staff need training from the school nurse to know how to react in an emergency,” says Sally Schoessler, RN, BSN, MSEd, Director of Nursing Education at the National Association of School Nurses (NASN). “Even with the most vigilant prevention practices in place, an exposure to an allergen can happen. The school nurse writes an Emergency Care Plan to guide staff in their response to a life-threatening allergic reaction and provides the best chance for a positive outcome.”
Increasingly, state laws require schools to have anaphylaxis preparedness plans in place and to stock emergency epinephrine auto-injectors. Too often such actions come only after a student tragedy.
“By law, at-risk students may carry their own prescription devices or a teacher may keep their medication nearby, however pharmacy law prohibits prescription sharing,” reports Sander. “Some state laws prohibit anyone but a school nurse from administering medication to a student. Public policy on this question may be silent, outdated or differ from one state and one district to another.”
“No one really knows what they would do until faced with the situation, particularly if they’ve had no training and if there is no state law or school policy for handling such situations,” says Stanley Fineman, MD, MBA, President of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI). “Identifying the symptoms of anaphylaxis and making an accurate diagnosis is critical to saving a child’s life.”
“Don’t leave the answer up to chance,” says Stephen Conley, PhD, Executive Director of the American School Health Association (ASHA). “Policy leaders, school health administrators, educators, parents and students can prevent fatal outcomes.”
NASN, ACAAI and ASHA join AANMA in urging states to review and strengthen school laws requiring anaphylaxis readiness training and stock epinephrine for emergency situations. These organizations work with ACE Teams nationwide to provide training and help develop best practices. Find an ACE Team at www.aanma.org/ace.
The ACE program does not promote a branded product. The program was developed by AANMA and sponsored by Mylan Specialty, LP.
Learn more about best practices by watching “Epi Everywhere! Every Day!™ School-Based Anaphylaxis Preparedness: Policies In Practice,” a program for educators, families and policymakers featuring Sander, Schoessler, Dr. Fineman and Conley, available at www.youtube.com/breatherville.
Allergy & Asthma Network Mothers of Asthmatics (AANMA) is the leading national nonprofit organization dedicated to ending needless death and suffering due to asthma, allergies and related conditions. AANMA specializes in sharing family-friendly, medically accurate information through its award-winning publications Allergy & Asthma Today magazine and The MA Report newsletter, its web site at www.aanma.org and numerous community outreach programs. Follow AANMA on Facebook at facebook.com/AANMA and on Twitter at twitter.com/AANMA.
The National Association of School Nurses is a non-profit specialty nursing organization, organized in 1968 and incorporated in 1977, representing school nurses exclusively. NASN has over 15,000 members and 51 affiliates, including the District of Columbia and overseas. The mission of the NASN is “to advance the specialty practice of school nursing to improve the health and academic success of all students.” To learn more about the NASN, please visit www.nasn.org.
The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology is a professional association of allergists/immunologists and allied health professionals dedicated to promoting excellence in the practice of allergy and immunology. www.acaai.org.
The American School Health Association works to build the capacity of its members to plan, develop, coordinate, implement, evaluate and advocate for effective school health strategies that contribute to optimal health and academic outcomes for all children and youth. www.ashaweb.org.