Most parents send their children to summer programs to enjoy the great outdoors, but along with being exposed to sunshine and fresh air, children with severe allergies could also get life-threatening exposure to bee stings and nuts.
Under a Town Board member’s plan, Clifton Park’s Summer Recreation Program staff will be prepared by June for emergencies resulting from allergic reactions among any of the 1,000 children at half- or full-day camp programs. Before the first basketball is dribbled, the first swimmer takes a dive and the first craft project is pasted together, many summer recreation staff members will be trained on administering Epi-Pen treatments. The single injection, given in the side of the thigh, is considered the best way to halt life-threatening anaphylactic shock.
According to town parks and recreation Director Myla Kramer, a very small percentage of the children enrolled in summer programs list serious allergies on their registration forms, but there have been one or two instances in previous years that called for Epi-Pens to be used.
“Our position has been that kids carry their own pens and administer it themselves,” Kramer said. “In an extreme emergency we’d have the staff member place their hand over the child’s hand to administer it.”
Along with the training, the town will also supply each site with a number of Epi-Pens with a pre-set dosage for pediatric use. Benadryl, an oral antihistamine commonly used to ward off allergic reactions, will also be stocked at recreation sites. The cost of the supplies, about $1,000 to $2,000 per summer, will come from the recreation department’s budget.
Anaphylactic shock occurs when an allergic reaction triggers an immune response that could cause a sudden drop in blood pressure, swelling of the bronchial membranes and difficulty breathing. The most common allergies bringing on the response are to nuts, bee stings and shellfish.
Town Board member Scott Hughes, who pushed the Town Board to initiate the training for summer staff, is all too familiar with the dangers of allergic reactions. His daughter, Mira, 8, has a severe allergy to nuts.
“It’s an issue near and dear to my heart; if you’re a parent that has to live with this day to day, it’s a terrifying thing,” Hughes said. “We don’t want any child to have to sit by the sidelines and not attend rec programs out of fear.”
Hughes began researching how to run the training and supply the medicine by contacting the New York State Health Department.
“We aren’t required as a town to offer this, but our position was to be proactive,” Hughes said. “Hopefully one day every place with children’s programming will do this. We’re going ahead before we’re told to do this.”
Hughes said the Town Board must officially authorize the program, which he anticipates occurring at the board meeting next week. The Recreation Department must also sign a contract that the Epi-Pen program will be overseen by the town health officer, Dr. Gail Buckley of Clifton Park.
“We’re still looking into the liability issues, which might include having parents sign a permission form to allow us to administer the injection,” Hughes said. “It’s also important for parents to give us the information we need to know about their child so we can keep an extra eye on them. This is another level of vigilance.”
Jonesville Fire Department member and American Red Cross instructor Amy Price will lead the class before summer programs begin on June 30. After about two hours of instruction, the adults should be adept at giving the injection.
“Most people will find they’re not squeamish, because in an emergency, there is a parental instinct to treat someone and help them,” Price said.
The training will also include recognizing early symptoms of anaphylactic shock, including a flushed appearance, itching or vomiting, which set in within minutes of a sting or any contact with nuts.
“Anaphylactic shock is very treatable, but very serious,” Price said. “Epi-Pens are fast-acting, but they’re a short-term treatment. You must call 911 for longer-term medical care.”
The town’s position on nuts has been to ask, but not require, parents to send in snacks or lunches that do not contain nuts. Kids with the food allergy sit at separate tables during group dining.
“Most parents understand, but you do get some that insist all their child will eat is peanut butter and jelly,” Kramer said.
There are 170 staff members employed during the summer program, many returning to the jobs they held in previous years. Kramer said enough recreation staff will be trained on using Epi-Pens to have three to four placed at each of the six parks and three school camp locations.
“We may have 12 children with these severe allergies, but for us that’s significant,” Kramer said. “If just one child is affected and needs emergency help, we want to be able to respond.”
According to the informational Web site www.allergy911.com, anaphylactic shock results in about 1,500 deaths a year. Peanut allergy is the leading cause of death in food-related anaphylaxis and one in every 200 Americans is allergic to peanuts or other nuts.
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Categories: Schenectady County