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Schools promote food allergy safety PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, September 07, 2013 12:16 AM


Staff Writer

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DELPHOS — School is back in session and students returning to the classroom who suffer from severe allergies require a plan of action. From medications to meals, kids, parents and all school personnel must to be equipped to manage a food allergy reaction.

Delphos City Schools School Nurse Stacey Ricker said the first couple weeks of school are spent going through emergency medical forms and identifying students at risk. If a student has an allergy — food, bee sting, environmental, etc.— a care plan is sent home for the parents to complete as soon as possible. These care plans are kept in each office for quick and easy access if a student reports with allergic reactions. Care plans are also completed for students with asthma, seizures, diabetes or any medical condition which may require prompt intervention by staff members. All staff members who have weekly contact with an affected student are notified of the allergy.

“Emergency action plans are developed for each student stating ‘if you see this,’ ‘do this’, Ricker detailed.

The emergency action plans are made to be easily understood by anyone who may come in contact with the student. The care plans, action plans and emergency medication go with the student on all field trips. St. John’s Nurse Jean Gemmer said every student with allergies to food is different and reactions can range from vomiting to anaphylaxis. The treatment of their allergy symptoms also vary.

“We follow the physician guidelines and orders,” Gemmer explained. “We have a Food Allergy Action Plan for our students, a central location for medication and work closely with the parents and student.”

Ricker said that any medication brought into Delphos City Schools requires healthcare provider instructions and signature on the school’s medication forms.

“We have specific forms for the life-saving medication epinephrine, which is the injection administered for anaphylactic reactions to allergies,” Ricker explained. “All students with severe peanut allergies have epi-pens [Epinephrine] in the school office.”

“Some of our students have Epi-pens for use for severe allergic reactions,” Gemmer detailed. “We follow the individualized plan for each student from their physician.”

Ricker said that designated staff members are trained and certified on administering the injection and other medications by the school nurses. Depending on the physician’s orders, some students may carry their own epi-pens and some students may have two epi-pens in the school clinic or office. If a child is permitted to carry their own epi-pen, Ohio law states a back-up pen must be provided to the school office. If an epi-pen would have to be used in this District, 911 will always be called by the staff.

“Training is given to our staff and teachers regarding allergic reactions and we are the first responders to an emergency,” Gemmer detailed. “We follow the medication guidelines given to us by the physician and if needed, would call 911 immediately.”

Gemmer said that an allergen enters the body by contact, ingestion, inhalation or injection. The allergenic markers from the wall of the allergen make antibodies. This complicated process happens the first time the person is exposed to the antigen. However, allergic reactions are not always seen until after the second exposure.

“It is important to remember that allergic reactions can happen at any time within minutes to hours after exposure,” Gemmer explained.

Gemmer said some of the most common food allergens are milk, eggs, wheat, shellfish and nuts, although, there are students who are allergic to cinnamon and mushrooms.

Ricker explained that once an allergen enters the body, antibodies begin to form and recognize the offending agent (antigen) and bind to it. An inflammatory response is then triggered which causes several chemicals to be released in the body, including histamine. If enough chemicals are released due to the offending antigen, an “anaphylactic” reaction will occur, which could be deadly if medical intervention is not initiated.

“Difficulty breathing, smooth muscle constriction, dilating blood vessels, flushed skin, hives and decreased blood pressure are all symptoms of an allergy response,” Ricker detailed.

When it comes to preventative measures in the cafeteria, school’s have adopted protocols to reduce exposure and contamination.

“In the past we have had ‘peanut allergy’ tables specifically designated for our severe students,” Ricker detailed. “We require the students to wash their hands before and after lunch to prevent cross contamination.”

Gemmer said there is a “nut-free table” in the cafeteria for students with any type of nut allergy. Any foodstuff containing peanut butter is packaged separately outside of the building to prevent cross-contamination.

“The tables and floors are decontaminated daily and as needed,” she said. “We instruct the students and parents about nut allergies and prevention both verbally and in writing.”

Tables are scrubbed down before a known allergy student enters the cafeteria and snacks/treats have been eliminated in the classrooms. Landeck School’s Kitchen Manager Rene Schrader said that in the past 20 years, she has seen peanut allergies become more frequent.

“With a dairy allergy, kids get juice instead of milk,” Schrader detailed. “Prior to using butter on the food being served, we set portions aside for those who have the dairy allergies.”

Signs may be posted outside of classrooms notifying all who enter of a peanut allergy in the classroom. Some parents ask the school nurse to provide educational seminars to classes of children with life-threatening allergies, which brings an awareness to the risks and how to identify the signs and symptoms of reactions. Children are encouraged to do other things such as lunch with the teacher, bring in pencils, erasers, or other trinkets to celebrate birthdays, holidays, etc. Ricker said the elimination of treats brought into school has been very well received by the Delphos City School community.

“It takes a little of the worry off our staff members and parents of children who may share a classroom with a peanut allergy student,” Ricker stated. “It significantly cuts down the risk of exposure in the classroom and saves lives. We are thrilled it is going so well!”

Parents of children with peanut allergies can send their children to school in the morning with great confidence the risk of exposure in the classroom is greatly reduced, alleviating some parental worries of their child being exposed.

Last Updated on Saturday, September 07, 2013 12:40 AM

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