Many students who suffer a severe allergic reaction at school get potentially lifesaving epinephrine injections from unlicensed staff or other students, not a school nurse, a new study finds.
“The findings highlight the importance of having a supply of epinephrine available in schools, and people trained to administer it during an allergy emergency,” said study author Dr. Michael Pistiner. He is director of food allergy advocacy, education and prevention at MassGeneral Hospital for Children in Boston.
If nurses are required to cover more than one building, they’re likely to be unavailable when an emergency arises, he and his colleagues noted.
The researchers surveyed more than 1,200 school nurses in the United States. Nearly 24 percent reported epinephrine being administered in their school during the past year. And 34 percent said they staff more than one building.
Of 482 cases of epinephrine use, about 16 percent were by unlicensed school staff or students, the researchers said.
The survey also found that one-third of epinephrine injections were given to students who did not have an allergy known to the school. Moreover, nearly 11 percent of students who suffered a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) required more than one dose of epinephrine before emergency medical responders arrived.
Previous research suggests as many as one in five children with a food allergy will suffer an allergic reaction at school or child care, Pistiner said in an American Academy of Pediatrics news release.
“Despite the potential severity of food allergy reactions, there are many schools where the nurse may not be onsite at all times,” said study co-author Dr. Julie Wang in the news release.
“Training other school workers may be beneficial, and it would extend the school nurses’ ability to manage students with food allergies in schools,” said Wang. She’s an associate professor of pediatrics and allergy and immunology at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City.
The findings were to be presented Sept. 16 at an American Academy of Pediatrics meeting in Chicago. Research presented at meetings should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.
The American Academy of Family Physicians has more on severe allergic reactions.