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Food allergies are more and more prevalent in children and can have serious consequences. Find out how to manage this risk at school.
A food allergy is an abnormal reaction by the body to food or to a substance in the food that was ingested or to which an individual came into contact with. Therefore, the food or substance in question is referred to by the term "allergen". We speak of a food allergy when the reaction is caused by an immune system dysfunction that overreacts and attempts to protect the body against the food or substance, which it perceives as a threat.
The defensive reaction that ensues can be very strong and manifests itself by a series of symptoms. Sometimes, the mere presence of traces of the allergen is enough to trigger a reaction. Paradoxically, some of these symptoms can pose an even greater threat to the individual with the allergy, especially in the case of an "anaphylactic" reaction.
An anaphylactic reaction or anaphylaxis is an acute, serious allergic reaction that can cause death. The severity of an allergic reaction and the nature of the symptoms that it induces may vary from one person to the next and from one episode to the next. The symptoms of an anaphylactic reaction include, among others:
When an individual suffers from a food allergy, constant vigilance is important because the allergen can be found almost anywhere. At school, it may be more difficult to control the environment to keep the allergen out. So, if an allergic reaction occurs and the people who are there are unprepared, this can be very dangerous. Therefore, it's important to establish a structured and rigorous action plan and to inform both the child and the people in his/her environment about it.
Your child's doctor is undoubtedly the best person to help you develop an action plan. You must give this plan to everyone who is likely to help your child in the event of a serious allergic reaction—teachers, child care service or cafeteria workers, school principal and secretary, and so on.
To make things easier, you can write up your action plan using a pre-existing form and adapting it to your needs. You can find this type of form at: http://foodallergycanada.ca/wp-content/uploads/AnaphylaxisEmergencyPlanwithEpiPen.pdf
It's important to have an effective action plan, in other words, it should include all the pertinent information in a concise and precise manner. The following is an example of the information it should contain:
Your pharmacist can also help you develop an action plan and provide information on how to use the auto-injector safely and optimally.
You will likely have to fill out and sign an authorization form for the administration of the drug by school staff. Ask the responsible staff members what you need to do.
Here are a few tips for parents with a child suffering from a food allergy:
Speak to your pharmacist for additional information about food allergies and their treatment.
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