NUT allergies are more common than ever, but the days of blanket bans on peanut butter sandwiches in the school yard could be over.
Official anaphylaxis prevention guidelines, updated by the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA), have been reworded to explicitly state food bans in upper primary and high schools do not work and can have negative repercussions.
“Routine food bans in this setting have not been proven to reduce risk, are difficult to enforce, may result in a false sense of security, may trigger resentment and lack of co-operation with more important measures and may at times result in bullying of the individual (allergy sufferer),” the soon-to-be published guidelines obtained by Fairfax Media state.
The call comes in spite of a significant spike in the number of older children and adolescents hospitalised for treatment of severe life-threatening allergies.
ASCIA anaphylaxis committee chairman Dr Raymond Mullins said there was an 110 per cent increase in hospitalisation of children aged between 5 and 14.
“Now one out of every 500 hospital admissions in this age group are to treat anaphylaxis. What was most interesting was that while the rate of increase is steady in most groups, we saw an acceleration in the rate of increase in this age group,” Dr Mullins said.
Mum of three, Kristin-lee Campbell has specifically chosen a nut-free primary school for her daughter Ruby who starts kindergarten next year. Ruby suffers an anaphylactic reaction to nuts.
Mrs Campbell said while sending her children to a “nut-free school” eased her mind, the reality was her children did not live in a nut free world.
“I think it’s most important for them to be aware themselves of what they can and can’t eat,” Mrs Campbell said.
“They know they cannot eat any food that mummy doesn’t pack for them.”
Dr Mullins said the medical industry must now face the challenge of eliminating the development of food allergy in very young children.
Mrs Campbell said it was more important for daycares and pre-schools to be nut free than high schools.
“In daycare children are touching there faces, by high school they should know.”
An education department spokesman said schools should not claim to be nut free as “the claim could not reliably be made and, if made, may lead to a false sense of security about exposure to peanuts and peanut products”.
Director of Wagga Base Hospital paediatrics Dr John Preddy commended the new ASCIA guidelines, calling them “dead right”.
“Blanket bans don’t work and they give a false sense of security,” Dr Preddy said.
He said there had a been a huge increase in the number of children experiencing life-threatening nut allergies and the best way to prevent attacks was through education.
“It’s age dependent … in high school there needs to be individual responsibility.”
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