Thursday, 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.

About Loyola University Health System

Loyola University Health System (LUHS) is a member of Trinity Health. Based in the western suburbs of Chicago, LUHS is a quaternary care system that includes Loyola University Medical Center (LUMC), located on a 61-acre campus in Maywood, Gottlieb Memorial Hospital (GMH), on a 36-acre campus in Melrose Park, and convenient locations offering primary and specialty care services throughout Cook, Will and DuPage counties. At the heart of LUMC is a 547-licensed-bed hospital that houses the Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine, the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, a Level 1 trauma center, a burn center, a children's hospital, Loyola Outpatient Center, and Loyola Oral Health Center. The campus also is home to Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, Loyola University Chicago Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and the Loyola Center for Fitness. The GMH campus includes a 254-licensed-bed community hospital, a Professional Office Building with 150 private practice clinics, an adult day care program, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, the Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park.

Trinity Health is one of the largest multi-institutional Catholic health care delivery systems in the nation. It serves people and communities in 22 states from coast to coast with 93 hospitals, and 120 continuing care locations — including home care, hospice, PACE and senior living facilities — that provide nearly 2.5 million visits annually.