National Allergy Strategy launches new information for schools and childcare centres

Better practice: Common triggers of severe food allergy reactions are nuts, milk, fish, shellfish and eggs.
Better practice: Common triggers of severe food allergy reactions are nuts, milk, fish, shellfish and eggs.

An increase in food allergy and anaphylaxis in Australian children has led to new guidelines and resources being launched.

The push aims to equip schools and childcare centres with confidence to manage potentially severe reactions.

One in 20 school-aged children have food allergies.

Anaphylaxis is the most severe form of allergic reaction. The incidence of food-induced anaphylaxis in Australia has risen rapidly in the past decade.

It is hoped the best practice guidelines from the National Allergy Strategy will help prevent anaphylaxis in schools and children's education and care, including out of school hours care.

Developed in consultation with key stakeholder organisations, staff working in the sector and parents, the guidelines provide evidence-based information.

Co-chair of the National Allergy Strategy, Maria Said, stated that even though the risk of anaphylaxis was common in school settings, severe reactions could also occur in children not previously known to be at risk of a severe reaction.

She said although Australia was a leader in this area, a review of school policies and guidelines showed inconsistencies in anaphylaxis prevention and emergency treatment, particularly around the amount and frequency of staff training and incident reporting.

"These variations create confusion and anxiety for parents and educators in schools, and ultimately put children's safety at risk," she said.

This week the first national standard of care for patients with anaphylaxis was also released. It emphasised the need for prompt treatment to anaphylaxis, such as the administration of adrenaline.

In schools, there is currently no national mandated approach to training staff in the prevention, and significant variations exist between government and non-government school sectors.

Research showed one in 10 participating services reported no requirement for staff to undertake anaphylaxis training, which is non-compliant with current national regulations.

National Allergy Strategy has also developed a new 'Allergy Aware' online hub of free resources and information for school staff and parents.

Specialists also stated that trying to ban food allergens in school settings was near impossible to enforce because it could not guarantee that people would not bring in food allergens.