Guidelines for management of nut allergies at ASL
Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction at the extreme end of the allergic spectrum. The whole body is affected by the allergen, often within minutes of exposure, but sometimes hours later.
The causes of allergic reaction can include food such as nuts, seafood, eggs, wheat, insect stings and drugs but, on rare occasions, there may be no obvious cause.
How can Anaphylaxis be reduced?
Some schools choose to enforce “nut bans.” The Anaphylaxis Campaign highlights several problems with this approach. For example, if a nut ban was to be implemented:
- It would not be possible to provide an absolute guarantee that the school would be completely nut free without going through every pupil’s bag and pockets every day.
- There would be a risk that allergic children may be led into a false sense of security.
- Parents may ask for similar bans in relation to other foods.
The Anaphylaxis Campaign argues that there is a strong case that food allergic children will gain a better awareness of their allergies and learn avoidance strategies if they operate in an environment where allergens turn up unexpectedly. If they are educated to be vigilant, their growing awareness may pay dividends one day if, for example, a friend offers them a biscuit at a party. If they are used to a nut-free environment, they may take the biscuit without thinking.
At ASL we have a number of pupils who have allergies to certain foods, insect stings and medications. To minimize the risk of anaphylaxis occurring, the school has taken precautions and works towards being nut safe and allergy aware. This requires the collaboration of all parents, pupils and school staff.
Management of nuts and allergies at ASL
The School’s responsibilities are:
- To educate staff on the risks, prevention and responses to anaphylaxis.
- To provide staff with appropriate training
- First aid training is offered on site to all staff. This includes the recognition of the symptoms of anaphylaxis and how to deal with an emergency.
- The nurses are available to answer questions and show staff how to use EpiPens.
- To implement procedures to mitigate the risks presented by anaphylaxis:
- Faculty and Staff provided with up to date medical information on each student.
- Photos and names of pupils with severe allergies are posted in the staff rooms and pupils’ names are flagged on the School database
- Faculty and staff are advised that if they have any concerns about a pupil presenting with even a minor reaction, to send them, accompanied by an adult or another responsible pupil to the School Nurse or call for help.
- Where possible for the nurses to hold a spare set of emergency medications for pupils with severe allergies.
- Teachers are encouraged to promote the importance of hand washing.
- Wiping down tables after lunchtimes and regular cleaning of the school environment.
- Ensuring the pupil has easy access to their emergency medication (EpiPen) at all times during the school day and for all off-site sports fixtures and trips.
- Catering staff are informed of pupils’ allergies.
- Photographs of pupils with allergies are kept in the kitchen.
- Catering staff are offered First Aid training which covers the causes and symptoms of anaphylaxis and food allergies.
- We cannot guarantee bought-in ready made products such as bread and cakes are nut free. Manufacturers will not generally guarantee them to be nut free.
- The school catering staff will not knowingly use any peanut or peanut products in their cooking. Other nuts, such as flaked almonds, may on occasions be used but will always be visible and a note will be displayed to advise staff and pupils of their presence.
- The school menus are displayed on the school website and choices that use diary, fish or nut products will be marked so parents can discuss the menus with their children.
- Any parent who wishes to discuss menu choices can email or meet with the Catering Manager.
School trips and sports fixtures
- Pupil allergies are highlighted on the school intranet and the allergy is identified by a medical alert icon. Relevant staff are informed of pupils’ medical condition.
- Prior to commencement of games pupils are advised to inform sports staff of the location of their EpiPen/inhaler or to collect the spare set from the nurses.
- All pupils’ emergency medication will be collected from the Nurses Office by the trip leader prior to all off campus activities.
Nut allergies and school bake sales/birthday cakes
ASL high school students regularly run bake sales for charity. Pupils with nut/peanut allergies who buy cakes at the sales cannot be guaranteed that these cakes are completely nut free.
We ask parents or students who bake cakes for charity sales not to use nuts or nut derivatives in their preparation. Pupils with food allergies need to know the ingredients in everything they eat; even a trace of nuts in a product could cause a severe reaction. A list of all the ingredients used must be clearly labelled on the wrapping before cakes are provided for sale. If cakes are purchased from shops, these must have labels with the list of ingredients on the wrapping.
Even though nuts may not be listed as ingredients, cross contamination may have taken place during preparation.
The organizers of the bake sales will also be required to display a sign to remind pupils with allergies to check ingredients.
Our advice is, therefore, that pupils with nut/peanut or food allergies should avoid buying cakes at these sales.
We ask the parents of allergic pupils to:
- Notify the school of the pupil’s allergies. This should be done before the start of the school year.
- Provide the nursing team with a treatment plan and EpiPen, clearly labeled with the pupil’s name.
- Replace such medication after use or upon expiry. Parents will be informed by the Nurses of expiry date of EpiPens/autoinjectors.
- Educate the pupil in self-management of their allergy, including:
- which foods are safe and unsafe
- the symptoms of allergic reaction
- how and when to tell adults about a reaction
- how to read food labels or to ask an adult to read the label
- Provide emergency contact information and inform the School of any changes.
We ask each pupil with a food allergy to be proactive in the care and management of their food allergies and reactions and, in particular:
- Not to exchange food with others
- Eat only food that is labelled with ingredients and to read the label before eating.
- Be aware of other people eating around them and always to wash their hands before eating in case of contamination.
- To know where their medication is kept in the Nurses Office and, that they are responsible for carrying their medication with them to make sure they do so at all times.
- To tell their friends of their allergies, so they know if an emergency should arise.
- Wear a Medic Alert talisman at all times, if they own one.
- Notify an adult immediately if they eat something they believe may contain the food they are allergic to.
- Notify an adult immediately if they believe they are having a reaction, even if the cause is unknown.
- Cakes and biscuits brought into school may have been contaminated in their preparation and our advice is therefore that pupils with nut/peanut or food allergies should avoid buying cakes at these sales.
Adam Bonnington/Amy Curtis