With the increase of allergies in South Africa, it is becoming more common for schools to have children under their care who suffer from asthma, allergic rhinitis, food allergies, insect allergies, anaphylaxis and atopic dermatitis. Inadequate guidelines exist for addressing the needs of such children and existing legislation does not cover many of the issues, is vague or is inadequate.
Since children spend a large proportion of their time at schools, it is inevitable that schools will encounter children with chronic care needs and also experience events where children experience allergy emergencies. School authorities have the responsibility to ensure that learners are able to achieve their full potential, despite barriers to learning, and that they are able to be taught and cared for in a safe environment.
The Allergy in Schools Policy is aimed at reducing the impact on learning for children with chronic health conditions and ensuring the safety of children with severe allergies in schools.
The fundamental aspects of the policy include:
- Establishing an “allergy action committee” (or “chronic” illness action committee”) at every school.
- Ensuring every child with a chronic health condition is identified and has both a chronic treatment plan and an emergency treatment plan, signed by their doctor and including a photo ID.
- Measure to reduce exposures to identified allergens are implemented for those with severe allergies.
- Emergency medication is available and accessible at all times.
- Staff undergo online training in identification and treatment of severe allergic reactions.
AFSA has co-ordinated the “Allergy in schools” consensus statement of AFSA, ALLSA, Allergy Alive and Equal Education Law Centre and is advocating for its adoption by school governing bodies, private school policy organisations and the department of education.