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Facing allergy fears

ROSE CAWLEY
Last updated 05:00 14/03/2014
ALLERGY
ROSE CAWLEY

SCARY STEP: Sending Eliza Pryor, who has a severe allergy to peanuts, off to school is nerve-racking for her mother Carlene.

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Eliza Pryor lives in fear that a single peanut could kill her.

So starting school this year was a very scary step for the 5-year-old and her mother, Carlene.

Mrs Pryor had to ask the school questions faced by an increasing number of parents whose children are prone to anaphylaxis - a serious allergic reaction that is rapid in onset and can cause death.

Top of the list was whether or not staff are equipped to deal with the situation.

"Sometimes I find myself wondering if Eliza could possibly survive into adulthood," she says.

"It is just so easy to accidently eat a bit of peanut."

The Eastern Courier contacted 24 East Auckland schools and found there are 107 children with allergies so severe they require a parent-supplied adrenaline auto-injector with them around the clock.

All of the schools have different approaches to dealing with allergies.

Strategies include special allergy seating, food bans, no-sharing policies, routine medical plans and staff trained to use auto-injectors.

Mrs Pryor says a photo on a social media site of a young girl suffering an allergic reaction at school prompted her to go and talk to her daughter's class.

"Eliza has looked like that girl before and I thought her whole class could do with seeing it because then they know how to recognise what is happening."

She says being able to go into Howick Primary School helped put her at ease.

Ten children at Sunnyhills School have life-threatening allergies and principal Juliet Small says she tells staff they will never regret overreacting.

"This is our new reality, this is what we do. These practices are well entrenched in our school's systems."

Some Sunnyhills students with severe allergies even have a Ministry of Education funded teacher aide with them to make sure they don't come into contact with anything that could trigger a reaction.

The minders are trained to carry out emergency treatment if the children go into anaphylactic shock.

And when the lunch bell rings students with allergies have a special seated area where they can tuck into their food.

"You want to reduce the risk of contamination of food from other children's lunch boxes," Ms Small says.

"Those children are quickly identified so it means staff can glance over and know they need special monitoring."

Allergy New Zealand adviser Penny Jorgensen says a growing number of Kiwis live with allergies and it is increasingly important for schools to develop allergy procedures.

She says schools need to adopt policies like washing hands after lunch, wiping down tables where there has been food and ensuring students aren't excluded.

Go to allergy.org.nz for more information and to find guidelines for managing allergies and anaphylaxis in schools and preschools.

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- Eastern Courier

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