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Dealing with Life Threatening Allergies at School

In DCSD, there are approximately 4,500 students with a reported diagnosis of a life threatening allergy.

The most dangerous allergic reaction is anaphylaxis, which can be a life-threatening emergency. Anaphylaxis can be triggered by foods, drugs, injections, insect stings and exertion. After taking a drug, eating food, or being stung by a wasp, a person may itch, flush, swell, have trouble breathing, panic and collapse. The foods most commonly associated with anaphylaxis are cow's milk, eggs, wheat, shrimp, fish, peanuts and other nuts.

Many by-standers and even physicians do not appreciate the gravity of the allergic crisis. Immediate treatment with injected adrenalin, antihistamine, steroids and life support may be necessary to rescue the anaphylaxis victim. The second, late phase of anaphylaxis can develop into a prolonged illness if left untreated. The initial immune response recruits other immune responses. Anaphylaxis is inpredictable and is not caused by a single mechanism. Lethal events include:

  • tongue and throat swelling, obstructing the upper airway
  • severe asthma and / or lung swelling with failure of respiration
  • shock caused by sudden movement of water from blood into tissue spaces (edema)
  • heart rhythm abnormalities and cardiac arrest

If your student has been diagnosed with a life threatening allergic reaction to a substance, you will want to immediately contact the nurse so that personnel can be informed and training can be conducted if necessary. Your child will undoubtedly have an epi-pen, possibly other emergency medications, and you will want to have one available at school so that your student can be treated immediately if an exposure should take place. If your student will be self-carrying his / her medication, we request you also have medication available in the school office in the event your student does not have the epi-pen. 

You should also be aware that if your child participates in any after-school activities, clubs, sports, etc. before or after the hours that the school office is open, the Health Room (where the medications are stored) may not be accessible. You should consider providing any necessary medication to the school personnel in charge of the activity. Please also notify your School Nurse so that she can make sure that the proper medication training has been done with that person.

The legislature recently passed a bill covering student self carry of emergency medications and the documents that should be in place are available at this link.

If you have questions about accommodations for your student at a specific school, contact the school nurse. She will be able to answer most questions and also facilitate the writing of care plans and training personnel as needed.