Anaphylaxis

Typical foods that cause severe allergic reactions

It’s tough being a kid in school these days – especially if you have severe allergies. A severe allergic reaction, or what’s called anaphylaxis, can be really serious and even life-threatening.

It can happen at anytime and anywhere – in the classroom, cafeteria, playground, on the bus or during a field trip. So it’s critical that ALL school employees, including teachers and education support professionals, need to know about allergic reactions, how to identify them, how to respond in an emergency, and how they can help prevent them in the first place.

That’s why NEA Healthy Futures and Sanofi US have teamed up to create a video just for educators and education support professionals on this serious allergic reaction. Click below to watch:

What do Schools, Students and Families Need to Know about Anaphylaxis?

What Is Anaphylaxis?

Anaphylaxis is a severe, abnormal bodily response to a substance that is triggered by the immune system. Anaphlaxis can cause a number of symptoms, including swelling of airways, difficulty breathing, or a dangerous drop in blood pressure.

What Are the Signs of Anaphylaxis?

While not all allergic reactions result in anaphylaxis, any reaction has the potential to be life-threatening. So ALL reactions should be taken seriously and treated immediately according to your school’s emergency protocols, the student’s individual emergency care plan, and state and district policy. Even students who have had a mild reaction in the past can have a severe reaction the next time.

Some of the signs of anaphylaxis include:

  • SKIN: Flushed or pale skin, with swelling, a rash or itching
  • RESPITORY: Difficulty swallowing or breathing, shortness of breath, a runny nose, or coughing repeatedly
  • DIGESTIVE: itchy tongue, mouth or throat; vomiting, diarrhea or cramping
  • CARDIOVASCULAR: feeling faint or dizzy with flushed or pale skin; younger students may not know how to talk about their symptoms and may just know that something feels “funny.”

What Can Trigger Anaphylaxis?

A honeybeeThere are many things that can trigger anaphylaxis, including bee stings, but the most common cause in the school setting is a food allergy. The eight most common food allergies account for 90% of all allergic reactions.

While these are the most common food allergens, a student may have a serious life-threatening allergy to a different food – and may be allergic to more than one food. Also, other health conditions, like asthma, can impact an allergic reaction, increasing the severity of anaphylaxis.

How Should I Respond If Someone Is Experiencing Anaphylaxis?

ALL allergic reactions should be taken seriously and treated immediately according to your school’s emergency protocols, the student’s individual emergency care plan, and state and district policy.

Epinephrine is the treatment for anaphylactic reactions. It’s critical to give epinephrine as soon as possible because the sooner it’s administered, the better the chances of survival and quick recovery.

During an anaphylactic reaction, epinephrine is injected into the outer thigh muscle using a safe automatic device called an auto-injector. It works just like it sounds: it automatically injects a predetermined amount of medication – it’s designed for anyone to use! The medication rapidly improves breathing, stimulates the heart, reverses hives, and reduces swelling of the face, lips, and throat. Epinephrine is relatively safe and its side effects are temporary and usually mild – even if administered unnecessarily.

A doctor should always be consulted after a severe reactionAdministering epinephrine through an auto-injector is an emergency measure that counteracts the allergic reaction, but the student must still be taken to the hospital. So immediately call 9-1-1 AFTER epinephrine is given. As a secondary reaction may occur, all students experiencing anaphylaxis have to be evaluated and monitored closely in an emergency care setting.

How Can Schools, Students and Families Prevent Allergic Reactions?

Students with diagnosed allergies should have an individualized Emergency Care Plan – or ECP – on record at their school.

Schools should also create allergy management and prevention plans. They include information about allergy management and prevention, bullying and education. Learn about strategies managing severe allergies and prevention.

How Can I Learn More?

Learning more is as easy as 1 – 2 – 3!

  1. Download The Food Allergy Book: What School Employees Need to Know, which is available in both English and Spanish.
  2. Learn more about strategies for prevention.
  3. Check out our list of allergy resources for more information, downloadable content, trainings and more.