Let’s make things easier for children with life-threatening allergies. How we communicate what a child needs matters and can be essential to protect their safety but also reduce stress and anxiety for parents who worry. This week, experts in allergy and immunology at The American Academy of Pediatrics did us a favor and sorted through various allergy emergency plans living online and in doctors’ offices. Through experience with years of research on asthma action plans, the team created a Clinical Report that showcases a single, comprehensive and universal emergency plan to help ensure that parents and caregivers are ready to manage a life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis. If you have a child or care for a child with food allergies, allergies to insects or a known risk for anaphylaxis, print one out, put it on the fridge and make sure your child’s school has it on file! The goal is to start having all families use the same form so schools, communities, sports teams and parents everywhere all get familiar.
What Is Anaphylaxis?
- Anaphylaxis is a potentially life-threatening, severe allergic reaction. I like how Food Allergy Research & Education defines it: “During anaphylaxis, allergic symptoms can affect several areas of the body and may threaten breathing and blood circulation. Food allergy is the most common cause of anaphylaxis, although several other allergens – insect stings, medications, or latex – are other potential triggers”.
- Typically, children or adults with anaphylaxis have symptoms include itchy skin, hives, shortness of breath, swelling of lips/tongue, or wheezing. Some children vomit soon after eating a food they react to and some children get diarrhea.
- Epinephrine should be given right away, in the thigh. If you ever feel you might need it, use it. Then call 911.
AAP New Anaphylaxis Plan
- The AAP recommends that families create a written plan for those at risk of anaphylaxis. The form is standard but it’s also customizable and helps protect children at high risk for serious reactions (i.e. those with asthma, for example, are at higher risk for more serious reactions). Standardizing what forms families use can potentially improve communication for all children at risk for life-ending allergic responses. The form allows to include a plan for different medicines that can be used in case of a reaction (diphenhydramine (Benadryl) or epinephrine, for example). In addition there is a place to direct caregivers to use an inhaler if a child wheezes or has asthma.
- Simply put, once a family works with their pediatrician to complete it, the plan can be the go-to guide and a communication tool for the child/patient, their extended families, caregivers, and schools in the event that a child has an allergic reaction.
- Written action plans can and have helped children with other chronic health conditions:
- Lots of families use written plans for caring for children with asthma and research has found these forms help improve outcomes for asthma.
- Goals in using the form is to reduce the frequency and severity of reactions.
- Forms may help schools and communities improve knowledge of anaphylaxis and use and indication for epinephrine auto-injectors.
- DECREASE STRESS: goals of course are to help families communicate with their child’s other caregivers and reduce anxiety of patients and caregivers involved. So much better to be prepared and have a template to communicate before a problem arises.