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National School Safety Week - Allergy Safe Schools

October 8, 2009

OTTAWA – Approximately 1.3 million Canadians, or four per cent of the population currently live with food allergies, and more than 50 per cent of Canadians know someone with a life-threatening allergy. Anaphylaxis is a serious allergic reaction. It can develop within seconds of exposure to a trigger, with symptoms including itching, hives, or swelling of the lips or face. The throat may begin to close, choking off breathing and can even be life-threatening.

Living with the potential of anaphylaxis can be a challenge. Current estimates are that food allergies affect as many as six per cent of young children. Children and youth must learn how to avoid the allergen that causes their reaction. They must also be prepared to manage an unexpected reaction. Schools need to assist in helping keep Canadian children safe.

October 17th – 23rd is National School Safety Week, and Canada Safety Council encourages parents, guardians, students and school boards to all work together and share in the responsibility of making Canadian schools allergy safe, and help to promote a better understanding of a serious safety issue.

There is a strong desire and need for awareness and educational material in the domain of allergies and safety in our schools, especially peanut and nut allergies. Every school board should have a written anaphylaxis policy and written procedures that provide minimum standards (see Recommendations) for schools within its region. Currently only three provinces have legislation in place – Ontario, Manitoba and British Columbia. Since 2006 all Ontario school boards are required to have an anaphylaxis policy in accordance with Sabrina′s Law.

It is a balancing act for parents of children with life-threatening allergies – wanting to protect their child from exposure to their allergens without depriving them of normal childhood activities. Most parents teach their children to take responsibility early, since it is generally felt that the sooner children learn to manage their own allergic condition, the more easily they will handle the teen-age years, when peer pressure and the need to conform place additional stresses on them.

"Children at risk of anaphylaxis can begin to take responsibility for carrying their own epinephrine auto-injectors usually by the age of six or seven years depending on their level of maturity," says Beatrice Povolo, Director of programs and services at Anaphylaxis Canada. "However, those in positions of responsibility should never assume that children or teens will self-inject in an emergency situation," Povolo explains, "That′s why it′s so important that educators and staff are trained on how to recognize the signs of a reaction and how to administer an auto-injector properly."

Schools must be aware that anaphylaxis is a life-threatening condition, regardless of the substance that triggers it. Although peanuts are one of the most common food allergens children can have equally severe, life-threatening reactions to other foods, including tree nuts, milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, soy, wheat, and sesame seeds. These foods identified by Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), are considered by the medical community to cause more than 90 per cent of serious allergic reactions to food. Other non-food allergies include insect stings, medicine, latex, or exercise, which can also cause severe allergic reactions.

· Have a written anaphylaxis policy in place.
· Clearly define roles and responsibilities.
· Raise awareness of the importance of allergies to staff and students.
· Keep all staff informed through newsletters or council meetings.
· Train staff on how to use an auto-injector, such as the EpiPen or the Twinject.
· Collect up-to-date medical information for all students.
· Create safe eating zones or have food policies in place.
· Put up allergy alert signs around the school.
· Visit for more information.

Parents and Guardians
· Know what policies are in place at your child′s school.
· Provide the school with child′s up-to-date medical information.
· Provide auto-injector to school if needed, and document expiry date.
· Meet with teacher to review child′s emergency plan and how to use auto-injector.
· Rules to give to kids: no sharing of food, read food labels, always carry auto-injector, wash hands, wear medical bracelet, tell someone if you are having a reaction.
· Involve your child in the process, so they understand their allergy.

· Don′t hide your allergy. Let others know what you are allergic to.
· Always carry your auto-injector.
· Read food labels yourself, so that you know what you can and cannot eat.
· Wipe down eating area′s before eating.
· Wear MedicAlert identification.
· Ask questions about your allergy if you have any, always communicate your worries.

For Anaphylaxis Canada′s school resource section and tips for living with anaphylaxis visit

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For more information contact:
Valerie Powell
Communications and Media Program Coordinator
Canada Safety Council
Phone: (613) 739-1535 (ext. 228)

Beatrice Povolo
Director, Programs & Services
Anaphylaxis Canada
Phone: (416) 785-5666

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