School nurses to be trained in dealing with allergies
An allergy training programme for school nurses is to be launched in Northern Ireland to improve the quality of life for pupils across the province.
The Anaphylaxis Campaign has created AllergyWise which is designed to equip school nurses with the knowledge, skills and resources to carry out consistent, high quality training in managing severe allergy and anaphylaxis within the school environment.
The lethal implications of allergies were brought into the spotlight at the end of last year following the death of 17-year-old Jane McVeigh - Ulster's first known victim of a fatal nut allergy.
The pretty south Belfast teenager died after she unwittingly came into contact with peanuts at a friend's 18th birthday party and suffered anaphylactic shock.
Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction - symptoms may include generalised flushing, difficulty in breathing and can result in cardiac arrest and death. Around half a million people across the UK are thought to be at risk of food-induced anaphylaxis.
Medical experts and allergy charities have warned that teenagers are most at risk from experiencing anaphylactic shock, prompting calls for staff to receive comprehensive training in how to manage the condition and also how to counteract an attack.
Fern Turner, regional official for the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), welcomed the scheme and said it is vitally important that teachers receive as much support as possible to ensure the health and safety of pupils.
"More and more children are now suffering from allergies and it is a big issue in many schools right across Northern Ireland," she said.
"It is absolutely essential that medical support staff in schools are able to provide the expert advice to help schools function safely. It is important to remember that teachers are not medically trained, therefore they have to be very careful about how teachers get involved."
AllergyWise will run for three years and cover all Primary Care Trusts in the UK. The project will provide 108 training sessions, train 2,160 school nurses, reach 43,200 schools and benefit countless children and their families.
Sue Clarke, the programme's senior trainer, explained: "We expect this project to result in a reduction in risk of fatal allergic reactions and fewer overall allergic reactions occurring in the school environment."