Sadly on November 3, 2017, a child with severe dairy allergies was given a grill cheese sandwich by a staff member in a New York preschool. The three-year old went into anaphylactic shock and later died at the hospital. For reasons unknown, no ambulance was ever called, however they did call the child’s mother and she brought her son to the hospital. Read story here:
I can’t even imagine how this happened. With the growing number of food and environmental allergies in children today, keeping them safe is the school’s number one priority. The first step to doing that is to make identifying these children easier for everyone! When there is a child with an allergy, we ask the parent’s to bring in an “enlarged” picture of their child with their allergies clearly written under their picture. Then, we display these pictures in the classroom, usually where snack is prepared or on the cabinet where their Epipen is locked up. By doing this, anyone that comes into the classroom (substitutes, floaters, volunteers or even a parent that wants to make the children a special treat) will be made aware.
Along with posting the child’s picture, each school will have a protocol of what to do in case of an emergency. It’s baffling to me why this school didn’t follow any emergency plan once they realized the child was having an allergic reaction. Depending how severe the allergy is, the school is always given a doctor’s order telling them what to do for the child. Sometimes they are instructed to give the child an antihistamine such as Benadryl, or to immediately use the child’s Epi-pen. Most schools train the staff so that they will know what to look for when a child is having an allergic reaction. When they realized the child was in anaphylactic shock, they should have been in crisis mode. The school had the sense to call the mother, but they failed this young boy by not calling 911!
By calling an ambulance first, the needed help would have been on it’s way. When children are joining a new preschool, the parents are asked to fill out paperwork. One of the questions on that form is, “In case of an emergency, which hospital do you want your child to be brought to?” By having this information on file, when there is an emergency , 911 is always called first. Once that is done, the parent is called to inform them of what has happened. Depending on how far away the parent is, they can then decide if they want to come to the school or meet the ambulance at the hospital.
We had a child in our program that had a severe allergy to eggs, he couldn’t even touch an egg shell. We took every precaution to inform the parents and staff verbally, as well as posting his picture with the information. We often did cooking projects with the kids, but we were wondering if we should eliminate this activity while this child was in our class. We decided to talk to the parents. The mother asked if there was any way her son could be included. We said, “Of course, he could do any measuring, scooping or sifting of the ingredients, until the egg was added”. They encouraged us to try a cooking project. Her son loved helping to cook, and we took precautions to guide every child to wash their hands well after they were done helping with the project, so no trace of egg was left on their hands. We always let the mother know a few days in advance when we would be doing any cooking with the children, so she would have time to pick up a dairy-free version for her son to enjoy.
Food allergies can be very scary. When you are checking out a school , ask them what their protocol is in case of an emergency. Along with this, ask if their staff is trained on how to spot allergic reactions and how to administer Epipen! While on the subject, find out if the staff is certified in first aid.
Being vigilant in this matter can mean the difference between life and death.