Back to school, a risk for allergic children
Angel Mazon. MD PhD
EAACI Website Co-editor
School is back for children, and it is a first time experience for youngest ones. Allergic children must face the same difficulties as their non-allergic peers and, in addition, specific problems regarding their allergy.
Allergic children may experiment difficulties due to their symptoms and also to the effects of the medication. Allergic rhinitis is associated with worse performance at school; asthma is associated to a higher number of school days missed due to the disease. Atopic dermatitis causes much distress and may lead to isolation from other children. Signs and symptoms of the allergic disorders can be a specific cause for suffering bullying of teasing at school. Food allergy can be very severe of even life-threatening. Twenty per cent of reactions to food occur in schools, and they can appear for the fist time at school.
Although allergy is well-known by patients and parents, this is not the case for teachers and the rest of school personnel, and much less for the pupils. Thus, most of the schools are not prepared to recognise and treat allergic reactions, or to create a friendly and safe environment for allergic children. As stated in EAACI position paper “The management of the allergic child at school: EAACI/GA2LEN Task Force on the allergic child at school”, to achieve this, a cooperative partnership between doctors, community and school nurses, school staff, parents and the child is necessary.
A legal framework is needed to harmonise the situation across Europe and to ensure protection of allergic children, as currently national legislations vary greatly from country to country. Meanwhile, for many children, individual and voluntary approach from teachers is the only way to cope with this.
What should you do if your allergic child is going to school? You will need your physician to provide you an updated written personal plan of management, in which the allergies are identified and the potential symptoms are described. The treatment to use in case of symptoms and how to administer it, especially for self-injectable adrenaline, must be clearly explained. What to do next, after administering treatment, to get medical help, should also be taken in account. Preventing is better that curing, so measures to avoid contact with the offending allergen are important.
In the school they will need a copy of the personal plan and, depending on national legislation, the parents must provide the medication. Be sure that it is not expired, and that the doses are clearly stated in the personal plan. The place to keep the medication, with easy access for teachers but not for children, must be decided by the school personnel. Education of teachers on how to administer medication should be given. Liaise with your physician for a session of training and use internet resources.
Get a personal management plan with:
- description of allergies
- how to avoid allergens
- potential symptoms
- how to treat symptoms
- medication, doses, mode of administration, repetition of doses
- how to get medical help
Provide school with
- management plan
- medication (check expiry date)
School should be aware of
- where medication is kept
- receiving training on how to proceed
- following precautions in school outings
- following precautions in all school premises