Caithness mum fights for allergy legislation
A LATHERONWHEEL mum is petitioning the Scottish Parliament to pass legislation that will make an allergy care policy statutory for every school and nursery.
Catrina Drummond was moved to take action after her three-year-old son Lewis had a severe allergic reaction to cow's milk last summer.
"We knew he had an allergy but it [the milk] was in a cake and he had a reaction about an hour-and-a-half later," Catrina said.
Lewis has IgE-mediated food allergies to milk and nuts and was diagnosed just before his first birthday. Children with this type of food allergy will react quickly – within a few minutes to a few hours.
"He had a rash around his mouth and then became covered in hives. When he started to cough we knew at that stage it was starting to affect his breathing so gave him the EpiPen."
An EpiPen is a medical device for injecting a measured dose of epinephrine and is designed for the emergency treatment of the symptoms of a severe allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis.
An estimated 20 deaths from anaphylaxis are reported each year in the UK.
Catrina stressed how severe anaphylaxis can be by pointing out the case in 2017 when a 13-year-old boy with a dairy allergy died after a slice of cheese was flicked at his neck by a fellow pupil.
The coroner ruling over the death of Karanbir Cheema stated that the case was "extremely rare" but said the health care given to him at William Perkin Church of England High School in Ealing, London, was “inadequate”.
Catrina thinks that a similar scenario could arise elsewhere if adequate facilities and training are not put in place.
"In the absence of clear guidance from the government and local authority, the majority of schools are forced to rely almost entirely on information provided by the parents of allergic pupils, and the protection of children with life-threatening allergies is consequently down to an assortment of ad-hoc policies and procedures."
The current guidance available from the Scottish Government focuses narrowly on the use of and provision of EpiPens, she added.
"Lybster school didn’t have an allergy policy in place when my son enrolled but luckily the staff were very supportive and proactive.
"They have done everything to make sure he is safe and included in all activities. There was no specialist training available to staff through the local authority so I arranged an allergy awareness course for Lybster and Dunbeath schools with funding from a local wind farm fund."
Now Catrina has gone a stage further and has submitted a petition to the Scottish Parliament urging the government to pass legislation that will make an allergy care policy statutory in all schools and nurseries.
"My petition will be reviewed by the Scottish Parliament Public Petitions Committee on January 16," she said.
"So many parents are having the same conversations, if the legislation was passed everything should already be in place and the staff could refer to the allergy care policy. A child with severe allergies could move into the area at any point."
The number of people living with allergies in the UK is rising by five per cent every year. The "first wave" of allergic disease occurred some 50 years ago with a huge surge in asthma and hay fever.
A "second wave" of allergic disease has now presented itself with a sharp increase in people suffering from life-threatening food allergies. Figures from 2012 suggest at least one in 40 children in the UK are suffering from at least one serious allergy.
An increasing number of children and adults are being diagnosed with allergies to foods that were previously safe for them to eat.