Anaphylaxis, a serious allergic reaction that may even cause death, is on the increase.
Figures are scant for South Africa, but a Western Cape-based allergy clinic that started a registry last September already reported 90 cases in the region alone.
‘Almost all of these cases are accidental. It’s as simple as a teacher offering a child a treat for good behaviour, without knowing about the child’s nut allergy or realising that the treat contains nuts or that it has been made in a factory where nuts are also handled.
‘It isn’t only nuts you have to watch out for,’ she remarks. Children can have anaphylactic reactions to milk, eggs, soy, fish, wheat, certain insect stings and bites and even some medication. Some are so sensitive that the mere residue left on a toy from someone having eaten the allergen can send them to the hospital with a reaction.
‘It’s essential that when your child has a serious and life-threatening condition like this to have a plan in place way ahead of time. In most cases, if an anaphylactic attack occurs and is treated quickly with the appropriate medication, such as an adrenaline auto-injector (a medical device used to deliver a measured dose of adrenaline), the outcome is good, but there are far too many cases that end up in tragedy,’ says van Aswegen.
To keep your child safe at school, Van Aswegen offers the following advice…
- Ensure your child’s school is fully aware of their allergies.
- Provide the school with emergency contact information and clear procedures for handling medical issues.
- Explain the early warning signs of an allergic attack to your child’s teachers so they can be alert to early symptoms.
- Provide the school with multiple adrenaline auto-injectors to use in case of anaphylaxis and be sure to check the expiry date. Teachers should also be shown how to administer the medication regularly.
- Be sure that your child fully understands their allergies and knows what they can and can’t eat or be exposed to.
- Send special snacks and treats your child can eat so they don’t feel left out on special occasions.
- Consider getting a medical bracelet for your child to wear to school.