Being Allergy Aware

In dealing with allergies in schools, it is important to be aware of potential allergens. Introducing allergens into schools can put people at risk, including students, office staff, teaching assistants, custodial staff, administrators, non-teaching professionals, teachers, and even trades people.

Allergens are not just something that can bother people, allergens can be life threatening. There are a number of life threatening allergies that can result in anaphylactic shock. In extreme cases, life-threatening allergic reactions can happen or make people really ill.

Anaphylactic shock symptoms

  • Skin reactions, including hives and itching and flushed or pale skin
  • Low blood pressure (hypotension)
  • Constriction of airways and swollen tongue or throat, which can cause wheezing and trouble breathing
  • A weak and rapid pulse
  • Nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea
  • Dizziness and/or fainting

Causes of severe allergic reactions 

As part of a defense against diseases, people’s immune systems develop antibodies to defend against harmful foreign substances. These substances could be bacteria or viruses. But some people’s immune systems develop reactions to substances that usually don’t cause allergic reactions in others.

Some of these substances can include:

  • Medications such as antibiotics and over-the-counter pain relievers
  • Foods like peanuts, nuts, fish, seafood, milk
  • Bites and stings from bees, yellow jackets, hornets, and fire ants
  • Exercise
  • Cosmetics and scents, latex products
  • Air particles like plant pollen, dust mites, animal dander, mold

Allergies causing death

Some allergic reactions can be so severe that people can die from anaphylactic shock. This means that breathing can become highly constricted and, in addition, severe loss of blood pressure can occur. Due to the reality of some people dying from anaphylactic shock, laws have been put in place to protect people from dying from allergic reactions.

 Sabrina’s Law

Sabrina’s Law came about as a result of a young girl dying from anaphylactic shock after accidentally injecting peanut oil.

This act requires that every school principal establish strategies to reduce the risk of exposure to anaphylactic substances. Plans also must communicate information about life threatening allergies to school staff. Administrators must arrange for regular staff training to prepare for an emergency situation. Principals must maintain an up to date file of current information on about each student who has an anaphylactic allergy and establish an individual plan for each student who has a life threatening allergy.

In case of an emergency situation, school staff are authorized to administer an epinephrine auto-injector to a student without the written consent of the student’s physician and parent or guardian or adult student. In addition, staff should call 911 and follow the directions provided by Emergency Management Systems.

There has been some research done to limit and/or prevent life threatening allergies such as the early introduction of peanuts to babies. This prevents children from developing a severe reaction to peanuts thus preventing allergen issues later in life. Early introduction of peanut to babies

Other allergies that are smelly

Besides ingesting food and/or medications, cosmetics and scented products can cause allergic reactions. For some people, scented products can cause serious reactions including asthma, migraines, and other reactions such as rashes.  A person wearing scented products to school could cause another person to become very ill – resulting in the person having to leave work. Even clothes washed in scented products such as wash-in scent balls can trigger reactions. Health and Safety legislation consider scents in the workplace as a workplace hazard. 

Scented products can be found in workplaces in:

  • air fresheners
  • hand sanitizer, hand soap, dish washing liquid, industrial and household cleaners
  • facial tissues
  • laundry detergents and fabric softeners
  • candles
  • building material, upholstery fabrics, carpeting

Being aware of scent allergies means that people do not wear perfume or cologne to work. It means not using cosmetic or laundry products that give off strong scents. It means thinking about the needs of others in schools and in workplaces.

For preventing allergic reactions in other people, be aware of what you bring to school including scents and smells. It’s kind and it’s common scents.

Always fresh and never smelly!

Collaboratively Yours,

Deb Weston

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The Author

Deb Weston

I love teaching and have been practicing for over 19 years in Ontario. I have taught grades 2 through to grade 8, including split and contained Spec Ed classes. I am an advocate/ally for issues dealing with Workplace Health & Safety, Special Education, Mental Wellness, LGBTQT, and Aboriginal topics. I have qualifications in Special Education, Reading, Technology, Mathematics, and Integrated Curriculum. I hold a PhD in Education Policy & Leadership and Quantitative Analysis. I believe that when working collaboratively, teachers are better together. My opinions are my own, usually supported by peer-reviewed literature and law. Follow me on Twitter @dr_weston_PhD

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