A School Nurse Makes a Difference
Students who attend Covert Avenue Elementary School in Elmont, New York hail from all over the world and are encouraged to appreciate each other’s customs and beliefs. Kids with food allergies are included in all activities and there are no food allergy-related restrictions.
Colleen Foley, RN, the school’s District Supervising Nurse and an Anaphylaxis Community Experts (ACE) volunteer with Allergy & Asthma Network, trains staff each year to recognize and respond to anaphylactic emergencies.
As part of training, Foley uses anaphylaxis education training cards with the acronym RED:
Foley distributes the training cards to school staff. “On the back of the card is a red, yellow and green chart that shows teachers how symptoms can progress from mild to life-threatening,” she says. “During individual trainings, I highlight on the card when the teacher should administer epinephrine. Most are willing to give epinephrine but they question their decision when it comes time to act. The RED card is a visual aid supporting that decision.”
Last school year, Foley trained more than 40 staff members, including a teacher who put the training to use when she recognized that a student was experiencing a life-threatening allergic reaction.
Snack time had started. The teacher noticed the student was not feeling well. She was feeling “itchy” on her arms and belly, and was developing hives after eating pistachios brought from home. The student, who had never experienced a food-allergic reaction before, said she felt a hot feeling around her mouth.
The teacher immediately brought her to Foley’s office where the school’s epinephrine auto-injectors are stored. Following school emergency protocol for unknown allergies, Foley administered epinephrine. She also telephoned the child’s mother and pediatrician and called 911 to request an ambulance.
Thanks to Foley’s anaphylaxis education training and the availability of stock epinephrine at Covert Avenue Elementary School, the child recovered from the allergic reaction. She returned to school a day later with her own epinephrine auto-injectors and a personalized Anaphylaxis Action Plan. The hospital’s emergency department staff commended the school for administering epinephrine right away.
For Foley, there was never any doubt.
“This child’s experience is the perfect example of why I train our staff to recognize and respond to a life-threatening allergic reaction,” she says. “A delay in administering epinephrine is associated with a higher risk of death from anaphylaxis. Knowing when to take action is very difficult. My goal is to empower school staff so they respond immediately, rather than be swayed by uncertainty.”
By Brenda Silvia-Torma, MEd
Anaphylaxis Community Experts (ACE) is a national, award-winning education, advocacy and outreach program developed and hosted by Allergy & Asthma Network in partnership with the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, sponsored by Mylan Specialty L.P.
ACE volunteer teams across the country offer free awareness and training programs about food, latex and venom allergies, signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis, and how to use an epinephrine auto-injector. Teams include allergists, school nurses, community members and parents.
Become an ACE member or request an anaphylaxis education presentation in your
neighborhood. Visit www.allergyasthmanetwork.org/outreach, email
firstname.lastname@example.org or call 800.878.4403.