Unique collaborative service established for childhood allergy-related anaphylaxis

October 03, 2000

Australia-first studies in preschool and school-aged children have resulted in a new collaborative service between the Women's and Children's Hospital, the South Australian Department of Education, Training and Employment (DETE), the Australian Red Cross SA and St John's Ambulance.

Anaphylaxis is the most severe form of acute allergy and is thought to affect 1-2% of the population. It involves the rapid onset of symptoms such as wheezing and difficulties in breathing, skin rash, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and sometimes loss of consciousness.

In children, the vast majority of anaphylactic reactions are triggered following exposure to insect venom or food proteins. It is not uncommon for children to be admitted to hospital.

Dr Michael Gold, senior lecturer and paediatric allergist from the Adelaide University Department of Paediatrics at the Women's and Children's Hospital said, "We studied 4173 South Australian children with allergies who were aged five to 17 years and found that one in 166 had experienced a previous anaphylactic reaction.

"This is the first Australian study to document the prevalence of anaphylaxis in school children".

First aid treatment of anaphylaxis is very important and may prevent the severe complications of this reaction. For some children this may involve parents or other carers, including school staff, giving adrenaline by injection as a first aid measure and before hospital admission.

This study also established that only one third of children attending school in South Australia had emergency medication available at school, an emergency action plan, or a teacher or carer on site able to administer adrenaline for first aid use.

"Child care and school staff need to be aware of the triggers for each child's anaphylaxis, have knowledge of the early signs and symptoms, and an appropriate first aid action plan needs to be in place," Dr Gold said.

"Furthermore, we have also shown recently in a separate study that, on average, children with food anaphylaxis may experience at least one reaction every two years due to inadvertent exposure to the food trigger.

Fortunately, the first aid use of adrenaline may reduce the chances of the child needing further hospital treatment by at least 50%," he said.

As a result of these South Australian studies a unique collaboration between the Women's and Children's Hospital's University Department of Paediatrics, DETE, the Red Cross and St John's Ambulance has been established. This has seen the formation of a first aid anaphylaxis training course for school staff.

The programme is unique both nationally and internationally and ensures that school staff are educated in the prevention, recognition, and management of anaphylaxis.

If necessary school staff may be taught how to administer adrenaline for first aid use. Already over 1,000 SA school staff have been through the programme.

Dr Gold said, "We believe the program provides a model for best practice in this area and is a practical demonstration of how the health needs of children can best be met by collaboration between the health and educational sectors."
Interviews can be arranged with:
* a family whose child has experienced food triggered anaphylaxis;
* Dr Michael Gold

To arrange interviews please contact:
Dr. Edna Bates
Public Relations Officer
Tel: 618-8204-7388


Mrs. Chris Ostermann
Director of Media and Community Relations
mobile: 0417-807-690

Women's and Children's Hospital, Adelaide - Part of the Children, Youth and Women's Health Service

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