Allergies in Daycares
Most daycares have had some exposure to allergies, given that the number of children with potentially life-threatening food allergies has skyrocketed in the last decade. While allergic symptoms first appear mild or moderate, a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis can occur within a matter of only 20 minutes after exposure to a trigger. The most common allergies in daycares are food allergies to peanuts, eggs, milk, tree nuts, sesame, fish, and soy, with mere trace amounts of a food resulting in a life-threatening situation.
Consequently, most daycares today are "nut free" environments, and many daycares require that snack foods brought for the group from the outside be prepackaged so that ingredients can checked and to eliminate the possibility of allergen traces on utensils used to prepare the snack. However, most daycare staff and caregivers are not trained to recognize the signs of allergies or to know how to deal with an anaphylactic reaction.
Various allergies share the following similar allergic symptoms.
Mild to moderate allergic reaction
•- Skin irritation (hives, redness, welts, eczema)
•- Swelling of the face, eyes, lips
•- Itching and tingling of the mouth/throat
•- Cramps, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting
Severe allergic reaction - Anaphylaxis
•- Shortness of breath
•- Tongue swelling
•- Tightness in the throat (respiratory blockage)
•- Hoarse voice/difficulty talking
Anaphylactic Shock (the most extreme form of anaphylaxis)
•- Wheezing; persistent cough
•- Pale and floppy
•- Blue skin/lips/nails
•- Low blood pressure
•- Collapse/Loss of consciousness
Left untreated, anaphylactic shock can be fatal in just ten minutes.
Preventing Allergic Reactions in Daycare
Childcare providers must be educated to achieve a thorough awareness of the symptoms, treatment, and dangers of allergies and allergic reactions, and all staff should receive annual training on how to administer the live-saving EpiPen adrenaline auto-injector. The ingredients of all food packages entering the daycare should be routinely checked, and if there are any doubts concerning food labels, the product should be discarded. The daycare registration process should include a section asking about allergies and this information should be stored in an easy-to-access file and be regularly updated.
Parents play an important role in preventing allergic crises in daycare by equipping their children with medical alert bracelets detailing the child's allergies and by educating their children to look out for forbidden foods and to recognize their own signs of allergic reaction. If a child has a known history of allergic reactions, it is the parents' duty to send all appropriate medications and allergy kits to the daycare and to educate staff on how to administer them.
Peanut Allergies in Daycare
Particularly prominent in daycare settings are peanut allergies, with anaphylaxis occurring in 20% of all peanut allergic reactions. Daycare staff should be well aware of the following three methods of treating food allergic reactions:
•1) Antihistamines: For mild allergic symptoms, administer an antihistamine such Benadryl. If this treatment is not effective, further medical treatment is called for.
•2) Epinephrine (Adrenaline): Children with known food allergies should have an "EpiPen" with them at all times to treat moderate to severe reactions.
•3) Emergency Response: If a child shows no signs of immediate improvement after the administration of epinephrine, call 911.
Non-food Allergic Reactions
While the most common triggers of anaphylaxis are food allergies, children may also be allergic to insect venom, with bee stings, wasp stings, and jumper ant stings the most common triggers, followed by bites from ticks and fire ants.
Managing Kids' Allergies
Fortunately, allergic reactions and anaphylaxis are preventable and treatable occurences. With properly educated parents, children, and daycare staff, fatalities associated with severe allergic reaction can be avoided.