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Summary of the guidelines for the care of students with food allergies at-risk for anaphylaxis

A food allergy is an abnormal response to a food, triggered by the body’s immune system (NIAID, 2010). Symptoms of a food induced allergic reaction may range from mild to severe and may become life-threatening. Reactions vary with each person and each exposure to a food allergen and the severity of an allergic reaction is not predictable. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported an 18 percent increase in food allergies among school-aged children from 1997 to 2007. Current estimates state that between 1 in 13 (Gupta, 2011)) and 1 in 25 children are now affected with 40 percent reporting a history of severe reaction (CDC, 2012). There is no cure for food allergies. Strict avoidance of food allergens and early recognition and management of allergic reactions are important measures to prevent serious health consequences (U. S. Food and Drug Administration, 2008). Children spend up to 50 percent of their waking hours in school, and foods containing allergens are commonly found in schools. Thus, the likelihood of allergic reactions occuring in schools is high (Sheetz, 2004). Studies show that 16-18 percent of children with food allergies have had allergic reactions to accidental ingestion of food allergens while in school. Moveover, food-induced anaphylaxis data reveals that 25 percent of anaphylactic reactions in schools occur among students without a previous food allergy diagnosis (Sicherer, 2010 & Nowak-Wegrzyn, 2001). With the increasing prevalence of food allergies in the past two decades, care of students with life-threatening allergies has become a major issue for school personnel (Sheetz, 2004). School personnel should be ready to effectively manage students with known food allergies and should also be prepared to recognize symptoms of an allergic reaction in both diagnosed and undiagnosed students in order to respond to the student’s emergency needs. Caring for children with diagnosed food allergies at-risk for anaphylaxis in the school setting requires a collaborative partnership with the students, parents, healthcare providers and school staff. School superintendents may wish to designate or assign a school staff member, knowledgeable about food allergies, to serve as the district’s point of contact. This person would oversee the development, implementation, and monitoring of a school district‘s food allergy management plan and coordinate the activities of the food allergy management team on each campus. Several key elements should be considered by the school district in the development of the district’s food allergy management plan in order to promote the physical safety of children with diagnosed food allergies at-risk for anaphylaxis and support their emotional needs.

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