PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT — Will Galley, an S-GI student, practices using an auto-injector, which can be used to mitigate an allergic reaction. Photo by Andrew Manzella.
SPRINGVILLE — Springville-Griffith Institute’s pediatrician, Dr. Robbin Hansen, co-hosted a community service presentation concerning food allergies in schools on Sept. 26 at 7 p.m. at the S-GI high school auditorium.
Dr. Andrew Green, an allergist from West Seneca, joined Hansen in his presentation, to give parents advice on how to handle sending children with food allergies to school.
Green and Hansen emphasized the importance of having the school notified of a student’s allergies, as well as having a written treatment plan, in the event that a reaction does occur.
The most common emergency allergy medication, epinephrine, should be provided to the school by the parent, so that a child’s treatment plan can be successfully carried out, according to the doctors.
Green and Hansen also explained that, if it is unclear whether someone is having an allergic reaction, especially if he or she has a history of allergies, epinephrine should be used.
“When in doubt, give it. Epinephrine is basically harmless,” Hansen said.
Both doctors agreed that medical attention should be acquired after an epinephrine injection is applied. Even if a child’s reaction subsides after the shot, he or she still needs to be observed by medical professionals.
In a situation like a school, in which there are large numbers of kids eating together in a cafeteria, avoiding certain allergens can be difficult, they noted.
“The highest risk group of kids are your high schoolers who have the food allergy. They know about it and they’re that particular age, where they feel invincible,” Green said.
Green added that kids in that age group tend to feel that having an allergy is uncool, and they can get themselves into trouble by not taking care of their allergies because of social or psychological pressure.
Currently in place at S-GI are health forms that can be filled out by parents and returned to the school that let staff members know about a child’s allergies, allowing the facility to devise a plan of action, in the event of a reaction. Superintendent of Schools Paul Connelly said that follow-up with the forms from parents is low.
“We have just a few parents who just refuse to provide information about their child,” Connelly said. “But, when they’re in our care, we need to know [if there is a medical condition present].”
With rapidly increasing numbers of children with food allergies, Connelly and the S-GI school board will likely have to implement policies in the near future that will help keep students safe, the administrator added.
“A lot of schools have adopted a policy where they say ‘OK, look, forget the cupcakes, forget this, forget that, bring in pencils, erasers, whatever.’ Our board has not decided to go that way completely, at this point in time,” Connelly said.
The S-GI school board will base its next plan of action on the outcome of the Sept. 26 information session.
After the question and answer portion of the presentation, attendees were invited to come to the front of the auditorium to try various auto-injectors. A newer model of auto-injector was available for participants to examine. This device guides users through its use with pre-recorded voice instructions.
Cindy Galley, a resident of Springville and mother of an S-GI student, commended the school on its attentiveness to the issue.
“I just want to thank Springville for being so proactive. I believe it is much to the credit of the education of the nurse’s office, the teachers and the cafeteria staff, that have been so conscientious,” said Galley.
Galley’s son Will was able to practice using an epinephrine auto-injector at the demonstration.
“Our biggest concern is that some of these kids ... are they mature enough know what to stay away from? That’s the frightening part,” said Connelly.
More information about food allergy awareness and the S-GI district’s plan of attack can be found on the school’s website at www.springvillegi.org.