by Kelley Lindberg
Summer vacation has either started or is just around the
corner for most kids in the U.S. now, but a couple of recent incidents have
reminded me of why it’s so important to make sure teachers, principals,
lunchroom staff, and even bus drivers are aware of children’s food allergies.
In Minnesota, the quick thinking of a bus driver and his
assistant saved a little girl’s life when she got on the school bus with red
blotches on her skin. They called the school nurse, who was nearby, and they
quickly administered an EpiPen. That quick thinking was possible because all
three knew that 4-year-old Grace was allergic to tree nuts, and they had a
medical sheet about the little girl that explained her allergy information. See
the story at “School Employees Honored for Saving Little Girl’s Life.”
On the other hand, another school incident, this one in
Florida, was nearly tragic, all because of some unsigned paperwork. (See “Nurse Refuses Student Inhaler During Asthma Attack.”
A high school student, Michael, had a severe asthma attack, but the school
nurse refused to administer his own inhaler to him because the medical release
form didn’t have his mother’s signature on it. The school dean had found the inhaler
in the boy’s locker, and it was in its original packaging, including the
prescribing label with Michael’s name on it, but the school took it away
because his mother hadn’t signed the form allowing him to use it.
Then when the boy had an allergic reaction, school officials
called his mother – not 911 – and the nurse locked him in a room, stood on the
outside and watched through the window as he collapsed to the floor. She never
called 911. She never gave him the inhaler. No one helped him at all until his
mother arrived, and that was almost too late. All because the nurse says she
wasn’t authorized to help without the parent’s signature on this year’s form.
(Never mind that he’d been in the school system for years and had signed forms
from previous years.)
The mother has filed charges against the nurse.
It shouldn’t come to that. We don’t know all the details of
the story, and there may be circumstances we aren’t privy to, but I still am
appalled at this event. Locking the boy in a room by himself and watching him
through the window instead of helping? Unfathomable.
There’s a GIANT learning lesson here for all the rest of us.
Make an appointment right now with your allergist, and have them fill out that
Food Allergy Action Plan immediately. (Most allergists have them, some schools
have their own form, or you can print the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network’s
form here: English Food Allergy Action Plan, or Spanish Food Allergy Action Plan.) Make several copies, and set up a meeting with your child’s principal,
teacher, and lunchroom manager for the week before school starts to give it to
them. Make sure you attach a photo of your child to the Action Plan and introduce
This simple step saved little Grace’s life. And it almost
cost Michael his.