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Home / Online Resources / Allergy Resources for School Nurses

Allergy Resources for School Nurses

By Zaf Udin 01/10/2012 Google+

An allergy is traditionally defined as a condition in which the immune system responds unfavorably when exposed to a specific element known as an allergen. While allergies are common in adults, research has found that they are occurring more often in children under the age of 18. In fact, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, approximately eight percent of children have some type of documented allergy. While some of these cases are related to animal or environmental allergens, such as bee, pollen, dust, or pet exposure, the overwhelming majority are caused by food.

The most common foods believed to cause allergic reactions in children include milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy, and wheat. Some of these food allergies are so common that they have been classified as a specific condition by the medical community. For example, children and adults who suffer from a milk allergy are traditionally classified as being lactose intolerant, while those with wheat sensitivity are identified as having Celiac's disease. While some individuals consider their allergy simply a nuisance, others must constantly be on the lookout for signs and symptoms. Children and adults diagnosed with nut, fish, or shellfish allergies are generally considered to be most at risk, as exposure to an allergen can quickly lead to redness, swelling, itching, difficulty breathing, abdominal pain, hypotension, and loss of consciousness. When left untreated, these symptoms can often be life-threatening.

Bee stings and certain insect bites can also be quite dangerous, and often require the administration of specific medications. In contrast, lactose intolerance and Celiac's disease are considered to be more of a nuisance than anything, and can cause gas, bloating, diarrhea, and other symptoms of gastrointestinal distress.

While allergic reactions in children are common, they are not unavoidable. For best results in the management of an allergy, affected individuals are traditionally encouraged to avoid exposure at all costs. For example, children who have exhibited a peanut allergy and their families are generally provided with large amounts of education related to the identification and elimination of foods and toiletries which may contain possible allergens. Similarly, children with a gluten, lactose, or shellfish allergy must always be aware of their surroundings. In some cases, however, avoidance is not always possible. Fortunately, technological improvements in the health care field have led to the development of a number of medications specifically designed for children with severe allergies.

Some of the most common products currently available include epinephrine, antihistamines, glucocorticoids, cromolyn sodium, and theophylline. Children who still exhibit common symptoms of an allergic reaction after the administration of these medications should immediately be transported to a medical facility to receive skilled care by a physician. While it is essential that school nurses are aware of the symptoms of an allergic reaction, teachers, assistants, and other childcare providers should also be on the lookout for these signs. With rapid identification and medication administration, symptoms and side effects can be lessened. On-going training in the administration of first aid, CPR, and basic life support by all individuals involved in the care and education of children is essential to ensure a safe environment.