Food Allergy Preparedness in Schools

Growing up, I was well aware of the risk my food allergy presented and would carry my Epi-Pen on me at all times. Being a kid, however, most of that time was spent in school. I was careful to avoid my allergens but there was always a risk present being in a building with so many other people. As far as I know, there was not epinephrine available in the nurse’s office at any of my k-12 schools. If I had forgotten to bring my Epi-Pen one day and had a reaction, the availability of epinephrine at my school would be the difference between life and death. This is why all schools, public and private, should have a stock of epinephrine available for the use of any student who needs it. Many of the cases where a student has had a fatal reaction are because they needed more than one standard dose of epinephrine or did not have one administered fast enough.1 Therefore, increasing the availability of epinephrine in schools would save those lives. As of today, only 13 states require schools to have a stock of epinephrine, though all states allow for a student to carry their own.2 This leaves millions of students unsafe at school every day.

For schools to be prepared to provide a safe education to food allergic students, the nurses need to be trained in how to use an Epi-Pen, handle an allergic reaction, and interact with food allergic students. In my experience, especially in elementary school, the nurses were not aware of how an allergy works and how that can be different for each student. While it is important to have them all be trained on epinephrine delivery, they should also be trained in how to best handle situations that can be threatening, but common occurrences in classrooms. These situations include a teacher handing out an allergen in class or the cleanliness of shared areas such as desks or toys. In my situation, the nurses were unaware of these things and putting the stress of having to explain them on a child, at the risk of not being taken seriously, is unfair. I believe that better training is needed in schools across the country to provide a safe learning environment for all children. For children with food allergies, they must not only deal with the physical stress of possibly having a severe reaction but the psychological stress of worrying about accidental cross-contamination or bullying. Having the adults in charge be knowledgeable and trustworthy is vital in keeping children safe and making sure they feel safe.






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