Posted: Sep 2, 2009 1:54 PM by Fran Kritz
For some kids, having the right school supplies doesn't just give them an advantage in the classroom. It can mean the difference between life and death.
Thousands of children in private and public schools across the country have such severe asthma that they often require puffs from an inhaler, a small canister of medicine, to quickly open their airways. Otherwise, they simply don't get enough air and can suffocate to death.
Many of those same children also have severe allergies to food, latex or certain insect stings that can cause serious or even fatal reactions. Some children can develop a reaction simply by smelling or touching a substance to which they are allergic. Children with these allergies need an immediate injection of a drug called epinephrine or they risk anaphylaxis, a condition in which the body's systems begin to shut down and can often result in death.
But schools are not always well prepared for dealing with allergy or asthma emergencies. Concerned about illegal substances, many schools have "zero tolerance" drug control policies, requiring all medications to be kept in the nurse's office or, if there is no nurse, with a senior official of the school. And though some children can safely wait minutes to hours before getting epinephrine or a puff from an asthma inhaler, others can die within minutes if they don't get their medication.
The situation has experts and parents concerned that the nearly 5 million U.S. students with asthma could find it hard to get their medication inhalers at school.
Having asthma increases the likelihood that a child with a food allergy will have a severe reaction, says Dr. John W. Yunginger, a consultant in pediatric allergy at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. Statistics show that 6 percent of school-aged children have food allergies. One in 5 food-allergic children will have a reaction while in school, according to the American Academy of Allergies, Asthma and Immunology.
For help in developing a strategy for keeping your child safe at school, contact Colorado Springs Allergy and Asthma Clinic.