School nut bans not working, according to new allergy guidelines

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One in 20 Australian children struggle with the common disease, but schools have been told that bans are not the solution.

School bans on foods like nuts aren’t working, say allergy experts who have unveiled new guidelines to tackle a rapid rise in allergic reactions in Australian children.

The National Allergy Strategy on Thursday released guidelines to provide schools, education and childcare services with insight into allergies and anaphylaxis.

One in 20 Australian children aged 10 to 14 suffers from a food allergy, while food-borne anaphylaxis – the most severe form of allergic reaction – has increased rapidly over the past decade.

The new National Allergy Strategy guidelines indicate that an “allergy-aware” approach is preferred over schools banning certain foods.

“It is NOT recommended that schools ‘ban’ food and as such schools should not claim to be free of any allergens, for example ‘nut free’,” the new guidelines say.

Instead, the rules recommend focusing on strategies to minimize the risk of anaphylaxis.

Allergy specialist and National Allergy Strategy co-chair Dr Preeti Joshi said blanket bans on certain foods such as nuts do not prevent them from entering schools.

“Trying to ban food allergens completely in these settings just doesn’t work and is almost impossible to enforce,” she said.

“It is neither safe nor practical to rely on people not to bring food allergens, of which there are many, into a certain environment.”

Dr Joshi said a consistent approach with age-appropriate strategies is best so everyone knows what is appropriate and reasonable.

This includes ensuring that staff have adequate training and can quickly recognize and treat an allergic reaction, including anaphylaxis.

“Things such as the rapid delivery of adrenaline and the correct positioning of the person with anaphylaxis are key factors that can potentially save lives,” she said.

National Allergy Strategy co-chair and Allergy and Anaphylaxis Australia CEO Maria Said said the guidelines were “very necessary”.

“The reality is that severe allergy and the risk of anaphylaxis are common in schools and children’s education and care facilities,” she said.

“Children with known allergies who are at risk for anaphylaxis can have serious reactions, but they can also occur in children who were not previously known to be at risk for anaphylaxis.”

It is not mandatory to report allergy incidents to Australian schools and childcare facilities.

There is also no mandated national approach in training staff to prevent, recognize and provide emergency treatment for anaphylaxis.

State and territory school policies also differ, meaning there are inconsistencies in emergency prevention and treatment.

“These variations create confusion and anxiety for parents and educators in schools and ultimately put children’s safety at risk,” Ms. Said added.

“While the sectors have a lot of demands on them, no one wants to live with a tragic incident that could have been avoided.”

Originally published as National allergy guidelines for schools call for end to food bans


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