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Mum fights on for schools allergy policy

By David G Scott

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A LATHERONWHEEL mum is continuing her fight to have allergy care policy statutory in all schools and nurseries after her petition to the Scottish Government was dismissed.

Catrina Drummond has been fighting for legislation after her four-year-old son Lewis had a severe allergic reaction to cow's milk last summer and wants "clear policy and guidelines" to be given to teaching staff on how to deal with child allergies.

An estimated 20 deaths from severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) are reported each year in the UK and Catrina's aim is to see "proper training and adequate facilities" put in place for staff who care for children with the life-threatening condition.

Little Lewis Drummond from Latheronwheel has suffered from severe allergic reactions to milk products.Picture: SDM photography
Little Lewis Drummond from Latheronwheel has suffered from severe allergic reactions to milk products.Picture: SDM photography

Her petition to the Scottish Government was, however, rejected as it was thought there are "sufficient provisions already in place" and it was felt unnecessary to "bring forward a statutory requirement upon school staff for mandatory training in anaphylaxis".

Catrina has vowed to continue the fight and has replied to the decision in a letter dated March 30.

She wrote: "Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening condition and requires more than a brief talk on its management. This is far from sufficient in generating confidence on the subject.

"In the absence of clear training arrangements or funding for resources from the government and local authority, the majority of schools and nurseries are forced to rely almost entirely on information provided by parents of allergic pupils, and the protection of children with life threatening allergies is still down to an assortment of ad hoc policies and procedures.

"I feel school training should be government led so it becomes widely available and mandatory for all schools."

In her letter, Catrina also said that "if training and guidance was implemented it would enable school and nursery staff to feel empowered to know they are well informed and have the support they need.

"It would also give the parents of these children comfort in the knowledge that their children are being looked after by educational professionals who have had the correct training to prevent/treat anaphylaxis."

The letter is under review by the Scottish Parliament Public Petitions Committee but she expects the response to be delayed due to the Covid-19 crisis.

Though she understands the decision will not be reversed, Catrina hopes to initiate more dialogue on the matter that may eventually lead to future legislation.

With this is mind, she is also communicating with a consultant in paediatric allergy, Dr George Raptis, and his team who have set up a pilot scheme working with schools to advise on the management of pupils with allergic disease.

A boy suffering from the effects of anaphylaxis showing a rash and swelling of the lips.
A boy suffering from the effects of anaphylaxis showing a rash and swelling of the lips.

"Who better to advise on allergies but a professional in the field who deals with allergic children and their families in daily clinics?

"I would like to ask that the government and Cosla [the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities] work with his team to ensure the appropriate training and guidance is rolled out to all schools and nurseries."

Catrina's son 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," she said.

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.

The current guidance available from the Scottish Government focuses narrowly on the use of and provision of EpiPens, Catrina says.

"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."

Catrina is working with Dr Raptis and his team as a "parent adviser" and will continue to push for more training and greater awareness of this potentially deadly condition.

Her petition and the response can be found at www.parliament.scot/GettingInvolved/Petitions/allergyprovisioninschools

Dr Raptis has published a paper called "A survey of school’s preparedness for managing anaphylaxis in pupils with food allergy" which can be read at link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00431-020-03645-0

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