Managing Children’s Allergies
Allergies have increased steadily over the last fifty years, and this could affect your childcare center. Eavesdrop on a typical conversation among a group of parents, and the issue of allergies will likely come up. Some interesting allergy statistics are:
• About 6% of children aged zero to two years have a food allergy
• About 9% of children aged three to five years have a food allergy
• About 8% of children aged six to ten years have a food allergy
• Of children with food allergies, 38.7% have severe reactions
Statistically, there’s a good chance you will encounter a child in your kids’ club with a food or other type of allergy (for example bees). Utilizing an efficient and accurate method to be aware of and communicate allergy and medical information between parents and those caring for their children is vitally important. Also important is how to respond in the event of an allergic or medical emergency.
Since allergies are an increased concern, here are three key reasons to consider improving your organization’s allergy alert, communication, and response systems:
1) Child Safety
2) Parent Peace of Mind
3) Decreased Liability
Proactively planning how to communicate with parents about allergy and medical information helps keep children out of danger. Awareness of the issue is the first step in taking precautions to pro-act rather than react. While you may not currently have children in your care with severe allergies, planning now prepares you and your team should an emergency arise. Take the initiative to increase preparation and communication. Utilizing a children’s check-in system allows parents to note important allergy and medical information and having immediate access to this information is one way to help keep children with allergies safe.
No matter what system you use, there are some key elements to consider. Make it easy for parents to quickly and easily provide the most current information regarding their child’s allergy and medical information. Ideally, use a system that allows parents to update this information themselves.
Another important characteristic to look for is a system that allows childcare staff to easily access children’s allergy and medical information. The ability to quickly contact a parent should an emergency occur is another helpful feature. For example, some check-in systems, like KidCheck, allow you to send a text message to a parent directly from the check-in system.
In addition to communicating with parents about allergy information, consider implementing other measures to keep children safe. Once the communication system is established, create response plans regarding how you and your team will react should an emergency occur. Familiarize yourself with common allergens and how to respond should a child react to that allergen. For example, learn how to treat someone who allergically reacts to a peanut. Minimize allergen exposure at your facility. For example, if snacks are allowed, check ingredient labels for nuts before serving a snack, and be aware what ingredients are in the snacks the children themselves brought.
Additionally, train employees to respond appropriately to medical emergencies. Keep a first aid kit and medical supplies on hand and alert your staff where they are. Periodically practice responding to emergency situations. Go a step further and talk to local fire and first aid to provide input to help create response plans and provide additional training.
Parent Peace of Mind
Whether an allergic reaction occurs or not, parents can’t help but worry an emergency might occur while you care for their child. Remember, parents feel more comfortable when they are confident their children are in good hands. You want them to be able to focus on their fitness goals and activities when they are at your facility, not have any concerns for their child tugging at the back of their minds. The great peace-of-mind they have about their children in your childcare, the more likely they are to keep coming back.
The simplicity of a parent knowing they’ve communicated their child’s allergy, that you are prepared should an issue arise, and that you can easily contact them should you need to, brings peace of mind. Having an effective medical communication and response system allows parents to focus on and enjoy their time and work towards their goals while you care for their child.
The big L word no one wants to say: liability. Everyone hates to think someone might pursue a lawsuit, but it’s naive to believe no one would sue should an incident occur. Unfortunately, it does happen. Giving parents every opportunity to personally and accurately communicate their child’s allergies to your staff, via a check-in solution or other system, decreases your organization’s liability should an allergy emergency arise. Having a system that also enables your staff too quickly and easily access and use contact information for parents decreases liability even more.
Should an incident occur, document it. Keep a folder with reported allergy/medical incidents. Take pictures if appropriate, and include these in the file. Additionally, give parents a copy of the report and verbally communicate with them about any incident and how you responded (including medications administered). Such steps decrease liability even further and show the well-being of their children is a priority.
Implementing a plan to address children’s allergy issues is essential. Part of successfully planning to keep the children in your care safe includes having accurate information, using that information effectively, and utilizing a system to easily communicate with parents. Implementing such systems can be a great asset to you, your employees, and the children in your care.
Allergy Statistic Reference
Gupta, R, et al. The Prevalence, Severity and Distribution of Childhood Food Allergy in the United States. Pediatrics 2011; 10.1542/ped.2011-0204. (Found at:http://www.aaaai.org/about-the-aaaai/newsroom/allergy-statistics.aspx)