Anaphylaxis in the Classroom – Do you know what to do?

Image source: www.bigstockphoto.com
Image source: www.bigstockphoto.com

Food allergies are on the rise, so it’s safe to say that you may know at least one person who has to stay away from common or obscure dietary allergens and intolerances.  With both adults and children affected, (mine included), you will inevitably come across someone dealing with food allergies in your classroom. In fact, this topic may have already been covered in your work module. Here are some good facts and tips that may simplify this topic, helping to create a healthy discussion amongst coworkers and students alike.

Disclaimer: The following content is for information purposes only. I’m not a health expert, but I know a lot from personal experience. Always seek advice from a trained professional.

What is it?

Anaphylaxis occurs when the body responds to an ingested allergen by releasing anti-histamines and in severe cases, can be life threatening.

Symptoms include:
    • Facial swelling
    • Hives
    • Wheezing
    • Tightness of throat
    • Fainting
    • Vomiting
Common allergens are:
    • Dairy
    • Tree nuts
    • Peanuts
    • Eggs
    • Fish and shellfish
    • Sesame
    • Wheat
When and where do reactions happen?
    • Food allergies can happen anytime and anywhere food is present.
    • Some food allergies can be airborne, e.g. peanut powder in the air.
    • Some people with food allergies can also be affected if they touch an allergen, such as dairy products. Although those would not pose a life threatening situation, hives, itchiness, and blotchiness could occur.
Remember the acronym FAST
    • Face – red itchy eyes/face, swelling of the face and throat
    • Airways – constricted air passage/tightening of throat
    • Stomach – cramps, diarrhea
    • Total body – rash, palour, loss of consciousness, sense of doom, etc.
Do:
  • Ask your students to inform you if they have any allergies.  Speak about it with your students who are affected, so that you can help reduce the likelihood of a reaction and are aware of what to do in case of an emergency.
  • Pay attention and act quickly. Symptoms may not be present all at once. A reaction can occur in seconds following a food trigger.
  • Learn how to use an “EpiPen”An “EpiPen” is the device used to administer the drug that prevents the airways from constricting. Epinephrine, a form of adrenaline naturally produced in the body,  is the drug inside the “EpiPen”. It helps open the airways and improve blood pressure.
  • Remember to call 911 immediately following an EpiPen administration,  as well as the individual’s emergency contact.
Don’t:
  • Remove clothing. The Epipen needle can go through a layer of clothing. So pants/jeans/skirts do not need to be removed prior to injection.
Image source: www.bigstockphoto.com
Image source: www.bigstockphoto.com
How to administer an EpiPen:
  • Remove the Epipen auto-injector from the carrier tube and remove the blue safety release cap.
  • Remember this saying: “Blue to the sky, orange to the thigh.
  • Push orange tip firmly into mid outer thigh until you hear a “click”. Hold for 10 seconds then remove.
  • Comfort the individual by reassuring them and keeping them warm. They may be in shock.
Lesson planning

This could be a great lesson for your students. An example topic could be “Traveling with Food Allergies”. This lesson could include:

  • How to pack properly for the trip
  • How to communicate to others traveling with you
  • Informing the airline of your allergy
  • How to make a safe environment for the allergic person

You could also have an extension of a previous lesson such as “Healthy Eating” with “Food Allergies”. Topics could include:

  • Identifying what a food allergy is
  • What the triggers are
  • How to react during an anaphylactic reaction (especially a severe one)
  • How to use an EpiPen safely and effectively
  • Role-play using props.   It would be helpful if you could bring a few dummy EpiPens for a tactile experience when role-playing with your students.
Some vocabulary to introduce to students could include:
  • Anaphylaxis 
  • Allergic reaction 
  • Allergy 
  • Epipen
  • Epinephrine 
  • Benadryl
  • Symptom 
  • Emergency contact 
  • Medic Alert Bracelet 
  • Rash
  • Cramps
  • Swelling of face
  • Itchiness
  • Tightness of throat
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Acronym FAST
  • Expression “Blue to the Sky, Orange to the Thigh

If you can think of any others, feel free to add to the list.

Other topics or situations where this information might be useful:
  • New Year’s Eve
  • Going out to a restaurant
  • Get-togethers at a friend’s house
  • Birthday parties
  • Myths that surround food allergies
  • Part of a related health topic
  • Part of a cooking lesson, e.g. cooking/baking for a potluck

Great resources to check out:

www.anaphylaxis.org

www.epipen.ca

http://www.allergyaware.ca/

http://www.eworkshop.on.ca/edu/anaphylaxis

Have any of you had an experience or other tips you’d like to share with the rest of us? I would love to hear from you, as always!

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