Across Australia, there are differences in school allergy policies, guidelines, staff-training requirements, and incident reporting. Confusion caused by these variations puts children with allergy at greater risk. Following two years of development, new guidelines have been released by the National Allergy Strategy to bring a standardised national approach to managing allergies and preventing anaphylaxis in schools and childcare services.
Significant media attention has focussed on the guideline recommendation to remove blanket bans on peanuts and tree nuts from schools and childcare centres. Instead, a range of strategies are promoted to reduce risk, including educating people on allergies more broadly, acknowledging that other, more commonly used foods such as milk and egg, can be just as dangerous. However, the guidelines state it is a reasonable choice for food service providers in schools or childcare settings to remove peanuts and tree nuts from the menu to minimise the risk of accidents caused by errors or cross contact.
Ten main principles underpin the new guidelines. The primary focus is on providing age-appropriate education of children about allergies and communicating how to manage anaphylaxis with staff and the broader school or child-care community. This includes having an anaphylaxis-management policy and ensuring all staff are aware of the children at the facility who are at risk of allergic reactions. Incident reporting is also covered, as well as supporting those who manage, witness or experience an anaphylaxis episode.
The full National Allergy Guidelines are available via the Allergy Aware hub for allergy resources. The Guidelines have been produced for both children’s education and care services (CEC) and for schools, and the hub includes links to useful information and resources to help with implementation.