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PM Pediatrics
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Dr. Christina Johns
Senior Medical Advisor, PM Pediatrics

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Having an allergic reaction? Don’t go nuts!

Today was “meet & greet” for the third grade at my daughter’s school. On my way to the classroom we passed by the fourth grade classrooms, and on one of them there was a huge sign that said “NUT-FREE CLASSROOM.” How ‘bout that!?! As a matter of fact, my kids went to a nut-free preschool. Lunch was challenging for this mom of a kid who only eats 6 things, one being peanut butter. But you all know about that from a few weeks back. Not today’s topic.

First, a quick vocab lesson

Anaphylaxis: the term for a severe allergic reaction (and your latest 25 cent word)

Anaphylaxis means more than just hives. If you are dealing with JUST hives, Benadryl alone may be all you need to do the trick. If you’ve got other symptoms, it’s time to consider putting your emergency plan into action.

When you have anaphylaxis (hives + swelling + wheezing), you need immediate attention. That includes an antihistamine like Benadryl, an EpiPen, steroids, and h2 blocker. Followed by a trip to the doctor to make sure you’re OK!

When I was in school, we never had a “nut-free table” in the cafeteria. I don’t really have any perspective about what it was like to go through school with a food allergy, so when my friend and colleague, Dr. Anne Butler, told me that her daughter (now in college) had some thoughts about it and would be willing to share, I jumped at the opportunity.

So here’s a cool excerpt about food allergies and back to school,

written from the college kid and food allergy sufferer perspective. Notwithstanding the current EpiPen debacle, these are some solid thoughts:

As a college student with a severe nut allergy, I understand how stressful going back to school with allergies can be for both students and parents. In order to ensure a safe academic year, it’s important to communicate with school administrators — especially with the cafeteria staff; the younger that the students are, the more important it is to involve the school in prevention and emergency plans.

Be sure the school and individual teachers know how to prevent exposure to allergens and how to treat allergic reactions. In addition to informing all relevant school personnel, make sure that all medications (EpiPens, inhalers, antihistamines etc.) are not expired and easily accessible.

 

It’s generally best to have multiple EpiPens: one or two the student can carry in his or her backpack, and one or two the student’s teacher or school office can hold throughout the year. Since severe anaphylactic reactions can require multiple doses of epinephrine, it’s safest to have two EpiPens in each location. All medications should be stored with a printed emergency response plan specific to the child’s needs; the plan should include the child’s name, allergies, medication doses, weight, and emergency contacts.

If you have any questions about preparing a prevention and emergency plan for the upcoming school year, please feel free to comment on this post.

Wishing everybody a safe and successful academic year,
Kelly

Parents who have children with severe allergies may be familiar with much of this, but I love the part about a printed emergency response plan that’s unique to the child’s individual needs — this is good stuff that goes far beyond just allergies. Please consider enhancing your home-school connection by doing something like this if your child has any kind of medical problem. And it doesn’t just apply to grade school either…this can and should extend into the college experience as well.

Think you need your EpiPen?

Here are some symptoms to look out for that indicate you need immediate help:
• Wheezing or tightening of the airway
• Lip swelling
• Eyelid swelling
• More than “just” hives

 

Thanks, Anne & Kelly, for sharing all this. Good info, good perspective.

 

Keep reading: It wasn’t just a cavity…

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