Writing about food allergies from a pediatric allergist's perspective

Food Allergies and Your School Nurse

AllergyHome is proud and excited to introduce our first guest contributor, Sally Schoessler.   Sally is Director of Nursing Education for the National Association of School Nurses and a leader in the management of life threatening allergies and anaphylaxis in US schools. Thank you Sally for joining us.

Written by Sally Schoessler, MEd, BSN, RN

“We worked together and helped the entire school community to understand the importance of solid information (about food allergies), staff awareness and a strong connection between home and the school nurse.”

Food Allergies Then

When I became a school nurse back in the early 1990’s, there was very little information and very few resources available to me as a school nurse that talked about the care and management of life-threatening food allergies and other causes of anaphylaxis.  Christie, a parent who was new to our school,  (a good nurse ALWAYS changes the names of parents and students to maintain confidentiality) walked through the door of my Health Office to tell me that her son Riley would be attending our school in the Fall and that he had a very severe peanut allergy.   She told me that Riley had experienced such severe reactions, that he had needed to be resuscitated twice in his five years of life.  I knew immediately how much more I needed to know.  And I knew that I had to become an expert VERY quickly.  For Riley’s sake.

Food Allergies Now

Fast forward to 2013, there are many great sources of reliable information on the management of food allergies and anaphylaxis– at home and at school.  School nurses are very well versed in appropriate strategies to prevent allergic reactions and in the appropriate treatment.

Three important foundations

Three important foundations that the National Association of School Nurses has taken in our work in school health in general, in addition to food allergy, include: 

1) The importance of depending on evidence based material.

  • There’s a lot of information available on the internet, through people we know and in the news.  School nurses are educated to always go to the most current information available from trusted and researched sources.  You can depend on your school nurse for answers.

2) The need of involving the whole school community

  • Preventing exposures to allergens and responding to an emergency takes the awareness and readiness of each member of the school staff.  The school nurse is the leader in teaching the staff what they need to know and providing resources to the staff to keep children healthy at school.

3) The value of partnering with parents. 

  • Parents trust their children’s well-being to the school for the time that they are at school.  Communication, cooperation and trust are important principles to pursue between parents and the school nurse – the most important reason is that it benefits each child.

Food Allergy “Champion”

The school nurse is the food allergy “champion” at school, and is your connection to developing a coordinated effort for an all-inclusive approach to food allergy management in the school setting.

Some tips when bringing your child to school each year include:

  • Meet your school nurse!
  • Talk about your child’s needs and any anxiety you have about sending them to school (each year has new challenges, doesn’t it?)
  • Provide medication and forms from your healthcare provider to the school
  • Provide current contact information so the school can reach you at any time

As the school nurse cares for your child at school, she or he will usually:

  • Listen to your concerns
  • Store your child’s medications in a place where they are available when needed especially for an allergic reaction
  • Write an Emergency Care Plan and/or Individualized Healthcare Plan to direct care at school
  • Lead and coordinate staff education and training

It’s a partnership. It takes a team. It’s important.

Partner with your school nurse

Partner with your school nurse

And why is it so important?  Because when we work together, we keep children safe.

Riley never experienced an exposure to peanuts while I was his school nurse and while I coordinated the care for a sweet little boy entering Kindergarten, that little blond boy has now, safely, graduated from high school.  Christie and I worked together and helped the entire school community to understand the importance of solid information, staff awareness and a strong connection between home and the school nurse.

Additional Resources:

Kids With Food Allergies Foundation Webinar with Sally Schoessler: Partnering With Your School Nurse for a Safe School Year

NASN Resouces: Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis NASN Tool Kit

SallyZSchoesslerSally Schoessler is a Director of Nursing Education for the National Association of School Nurses.  Sally has over 20 years of experience in school nursing as a school nurse in both elementary and secondary settings in public and private school settings.  She served as the Executive Director of the New York Statewide School Health Services Center and has worked in all aspects of school health, including developing expertise in the management of life-threatening allergies and the development of healthcare plans.  Sally is passionate about the care of children in our schools!



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