Managing allergies and reactions in ECEC and OOSH Settings
Early Childhood Educators and Early Learning Centres all have a duty of care in their day to day and must take reasonable measures to protect children from the risk of allergies in the classroom. Risk assessments are pertinent in these settings and should include identifying any hazards, assessing the risks, controlling, managing or eliminating the risks, and monitoring and evaluating the outcome.
Does your Early Learning Centre have an Action Plan for Allergic Reactions?
But first – let’s talk about what’s involved here.
How do you define an allergy?
According to ASCIA (Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy) – an allergy occurs when a person reacts to substances in the environment that are harmless to most people. These substances are known as allergens and are found in dust mites, pets, pollen, insects, ticks, moulds, foods and some medications.
Statistics have shown allergies are also increasing in Australia and NZ – and one in five people are affected! Symptoms of these allergies can be mild through to possibly life-threatening.
When the allergy becomes a life-threatening one – so severe, it is called anaphylaxis and this requires life-saving medication, generally in the form of an Epi-Pen. Someone that has anaphylaxis should always have an action plan. These action plans are done with the GP/Paediatrician/Specialist. In the case of Early Childhood and OOSH settings – these actions plans must be held on site, with the medication required.
What Should Be In An Action Plan
Action Plans should always include-
- Confirmed Allergens
- Family Emergency Contacts – all phone numbers possible
- Doctor/Nurse/Specialist Details Who Created Plan
- Date of Plan
- Date of Review of Plan
The plan will also detail signs of the allergic reaction, what to look for in mild, moderate and severe cases, and the emergency procedures to follow, including the administration of the Epi-Pen.
How to Prevent Reactions of Allergies In The Classroom
Now that you are aware of allergic reactions – how can centres and services prevent as best they can. Four steps to assist are –
- Obtain and ensure it is up to date the medical information about children at risk
- Train staff to recognise and respond to a mild, moderate and severe allergic reaction, including training in the use of adrenalin auto-injector devices (EpiPens)
- Implement practical strategies to avoid exposure to medically confirmed allergens
- Age-appropriate education of children with severe allergies and their peers.
So, in a day to day environment – you must be aware and alert if there are confirmed cases and possible reactions. Some questions to reflect on are –
- Is your service nut free?
- Is it just food that could be a trigger?
- How does your service communicate if there is a child with an allergy? Staff alerts, staff meetings, regular training, individually?
- How many Action Plans are in place in your service?
- Where are these Action Plans located?
- Where is the nearest Epi-Pen?
- Do the products used in your centre spark allergies? Cleaning products or it can be as simple as a staff member’s moisturiser or perfume.
- How do relief staff know about children with allergies? During induction?
- How do you manage Open Days at the centre with other families bringing in foods?
- How do you alert families?
- Do you roster extra staff on for days children with allergens attend?
- How do you manage incursions and excursions for children suffering allergies? How good is your risk assessment tool? Do you evaluate these after different events?
By being reflective in this area, planning and being proactive, your reaction can possibly save lives!
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