Survey of school nurses reveals significant progress in schools, but more needs to be done

Nearly all school nurses participating in an American national survey (96 percent) reported that staff at their school received training on handling severe allergic reactions to food. Over 80 percent asserted that their school had an emergency epinephrine auto-injector on hand to stop a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction.

The study findings, published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, also underscore the dire need for these policies, with over one-third of the school nurses reporting at least one severe allergic reaction to food at their school in the last academic year.

“We were encouraged to see high rates of epinephrine availability in schools,” says senior author Ruchi Gupta, MD, MPH, from Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, who also is an Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “This is significant improvement over the last decade. We also saw that epinephrine was available more often when schools had full-time nurses. Greater nurse presence appears to be an important factor in implementing food allergy policies in schools.

The nurses in the current survey pointed to some areas in need of improvement;
Their responses indicated the least implemented policies: labeling of school lunch items with allergen information; specific food policies for after-school activities; and not having emergency epinephrine with students on field trips or other activities away from school.

Given these survey results, “we need to continue working together with families and schools to develop feasible policies that protect children with food allergies.”

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