Does your child's back-to-school list include an allergy action plan?

News Archive July 31, 2014

Does your child's back-to-school list include an allergy action plan?

MAYWOOD, Ill. (July 31, 2014) – Backpacks. Crayons. Glue sticks. EpiPen?  For more and more school-age children the Epipen® is becoming a necessity for completing the back-to-school supply list. In fact, allergic conditions are one of the most common medical conditions affecting children in the U.S.

“Accidental exposure to allergens at school is a major concern for kids with severe allergies since any exposure could be fatal,” said Joyce Rabbat, MD, pediatric allergist at Loyola University Health System and assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.

Food allergies are the most concerning for school-age children since allergens can be hidden in food, utensils, pots or pans. These could be contaminated without the knowledge of the child or a supervising adult. Rabbat said that parents of children with food allergies should ensure an allergy action plan is in place at school.

“In the event of an accidental exposure, the plan helps school personnel manage the reaction in a prompt and effective way. This really could mean life or death to the child,” Rabbat said.

Rabbat said a parent should make sure the school reviews the child’s health records. She also suggested asking what the school does to prevent accidental exposure and whether staff members are trained to deal with emergencies.

If the child is older and knows how to self-administer medications, Rabbat suggested talking to the school about allowing children to carry the medication with them. If that is not allowed at the school, make sure the following medications are available:

  • Epinephrine auto injectors
  • Antihistamines
  • Albuterol rescue inhalers

Also make sure a staff member, who is available at all times, is properly trained on how to administer medication and that your child is familiar with this person.

“Each child is different. Some children are extremely reactive to certain foods and in those cases additional precautions need to be taken. It is important the school staff members know how to manage a child’s allergy and have an emergency response in place,” Rabbat said.

In addition to other staff, it is imperative the child’s teacher be aware of the child’s allergies, knows the signs of an attack and is trained on how to respond because reactions can escalate quickly. Rabbat also suggested school bus drivers and afterschool program staff be alerted to the child’s allergies and trained on how to respond in the event of an emergency.

According to Rabbat, the best way to keep a child with a food allergy safe is to educate the child.

“As soon as your child is diagnosed with a food allergy begin teaching him or her what to avoid. Talk about safe and unsafe foods and encourage them to never share food with friends or eat something with unknown ingredients,” Rabbat said.

Loyola University Health System (LUHS) is a member of Trinity Health. Based in the western suburbs of Chicago, LUHS is a quaternary care system with a 61-acre main medical center campus, the 36-acre Gottlieb Memorial Hospital campus and more than 30 primary and specialty care facilities in Cook, Will and DuPage counties. The medical center campus is conveniently located in Maywood, 13 miles west of the Chicago Loop and 8 miles east of Oak Brook, Ill. The heart of the medical center campus is a 559-licensed-bed hospital that houses a Level 1 Trauma Center, a Burn Center and the Ronald McDonald® Children's Hospital of Loyola University Medical Center. Also on campus are the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, Loyola Outpatient Center, Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine and Loyola Oral Health Center as well as the LUC Stritch School of Medicine, the LUC Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and the Loyola Center for Fitness. Loyola's Gottlieb campus in Melrose Park includes the 255-licensed-bed community hospital, the Professional Office Building housing 150 private practice clinics, the Adult Day Care, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park.
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