It is easy for caregivers at school to forget which individual children have allergies or what they are allergic to. Teachers may also not know what to do if the child experiences a serious reaction. Creating an anaphylaxis action plan for school can keep all responsible parties prepared. This emergency plan documents the recommended treatment in case your child suffers an allergic reaction. It should include your doctor’s signature and your emergency contact information.
So how do you go about creating one? Parentology spoke with two medical doctors. We also checked several plans from reputable organizations to detail the steps you can use to create your own plan.
Step 1. Identify the Symptoms
According to the San Diego Unified School District, the first step is to recognize the symptoms of an anaphylaxis. Potential reactions identified in their action plan include itching, hives, hoarseness, shortness of breath, and blueness. The document also states that the most life-threatening symptoms are those affecting the throat, lungs, and heart.
Dr. Vivian Hernandez-Trujillo agrees. An allergist with a practice at the Allergy and Immunology Care Center of South Florida, she says, “At [the] start of each school year, parents and caregivers should set aside time with their child’s teachers and nurses to ensure they recognize the signs and symptoms of an anaphylactic reaction.”
Step 2. Review Trusted Templates
Dr. Todd Mahr is a pediatric allergist and president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. He recommends the American Academy of Pediatrics Allergy Anaphylaxis Action Plan, as does Hernandez-Trujillo.
Another highly recommended option is the plan created by the Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. Your child’s school or school district’s website may also be a good source for anaphylaxis plan templates. Note that some websites require a login for you to access templates.
Step 3. Work with Your Doctor
Online templates are a great starting point, but when creating a specific plan for your child, it is best to consult your physician. There is no one-size-fits-all plan for every allergy. Both doctors interviewed by Parentology stressed the importance of this.
Hernandez-Trujillo explains that parents and caregivers should speak with their child’s medical team. Together, they can find the right plan that works for the child. While there are many anaphylaxis action plans that educate parents on food allergies, every child’s specific needs are different.
Step 4. Get the School Involved
No matter how good your action plan, nothing works well in a vacuum, so it is important to get the staff at school on board. To ensure this, Mahr recommends sharing it with other caregivers.
“Ideally, before school begins, parents and caregivers [should] explain their child’s food allergies” he says. “[They can] provide alternative foods, and have an action plan available for teachers and anyone supervising their child during school hours.” He also encourages parents and teachers to treat any accidents that occur along the way as a learning experience. They can then seek remedies to prevent it from happening again.
Step 5. Provide an Epinephrine Auto-Injector
The San Diego Unified School District identifies only epinephrine as a suitable anaphylaxis treatment. This drug is usually packaged in an auto-injector, a tool that automatically injects a specific dose of epinephrine into the body. If the importance of using this device is not stressed, caregivers at school may opt to treat anaphylaxis with other alternatives. However, the San Diego Unified School District advises that antihistamines and asthma inhalers cannot replace epinephrine.
“Nothing replaces having a good anaphylaxis action plan in place and also having an epinephrine auto-injector readily available,” Mahr tells us. One option my patients seem to prefer is AUVI-Q. Parents can speak with their child’s health care provider about which epinephrine auto-injector may be right for them.”
Discovering that a child suffers from a life-threatening allergy is a troubling event for any parent. Still, it is not without remedies. Focus on creating, enforcing, and distributing an anaphylaxis action plan ahead of time. By doing this, parents help to keep their children safe.
Anaphylaxis Action Plan for School — Sources
Vivian Hernandez-Trujillo, MD, Allergy and Immunology Care Center of South Florida
HealthyChildren.org: American Academy of Pediatrics Allergy and Anaphylaxis Emergency Plan
American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology: Anaphylaxis Emergency Action Plan
San Diego Unified School District: School Anaphylaxis Plan
Todd Mahr, MD, American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) President, Director, Pediatric Allergy and Clinical Immunology at Gundersen Health System in La Crosse