General Health Friday May 18, 2012

Should we have annual allergy training for people in childcare?

Allergy numbers are on the increase and in spite of that, not all childcare services provided are able to take in children with allergies, mainly due to a lack of training. At the moment childcare services that are prepared to take in children with allergies aren’t required to undergo mandatory training. I am sure most places are perfectly capable of providing exceptional care to children with allergies, but I think more should be done to support parents and childcare professionals to ensure that the best practices are followed in emergency situations.

I recently read an article about nurses campaigning in Australia for annual training for childcare staff to better enable them to deal with circumstances where they have to care for a child with the potential to develop an allergic reaction. In the article it reports on the experiences of Rachael Pandeli, a registered nurse who was unaware of their child’s allergy to cashews and had to rush him to the hospital after he had some in a chocolate bar. Ms Pandeli, who currently trains childcare workers in allergy management, often finds that even those who are trained still made errors, because they were prone to forget their training if they didn’t receive refresher courses.

Some allergies aren’t always realised until an actual severe reaction occurs, which is why I think it’s relevant for all childcare professionals to know what they are required to do in case of anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is another name for a severe allergic reaction and doctors usually recommend the ABC method of evaluation to evaluate a patient’s condition and symptoms. If a person is experiencing all of the symptoms below it is generally considered that they have anaphylaxis:

  • Airways – Is there any swelling of the airways?
  • Breathing – Is the person struggling to breathe or experiencing shortness of breath?
  • Circulation – Are the symptoms causing a person to experience circulation problems causing them to feel dizzy for example

At the moment, parents who are aware of their child’s allergies can work with the childcare provider and GP to compile an allergy protocol, which details all the information about the allergy and what procedures should be followed. Charities such as Allergy UK also offer support to both parents and those in childcare to help compile a custom protocol, while St John’s Ambulance offers courses.

Childcare in the UK was briefly in the spotlight in March when it was found that many people looking after children weren’t equipped with the right knowledge to be able to perform their job properly. A comparison was drawn between the UK and the Netherlands and it was found that the Netherlands had much better childcare services; even though the allocated budget was far lower. In the Netherlands, childcare professionals receive up to 16 hours of training each year and are moderated every six months. In the UK, Ofsted only evaluates childcare services every three years, which could suggest that it might be difficult to implement allergy care regulations such as I am suggesting.

In spite of this I think that it’s extremely important to ensure that childcare workers are able to provide the right care when needed to ensure a child’s safety. Whether this initiative should be funded by the government or privately is debatable, but I think it’s important that more focus be placed on allergies when first aid training courses are provided, as allergies can strike at anytime. Whether these allergies are serious or not, it can still be helpful if those who take care of pre-school children are able to help manage a child’s symptoms so that they are more comfortable.

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