Allergy and anaphylaxis in early childhood education and care
Utilising the updated Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA) Action Plans and other risk minimisation strategies will help reduce risk of allergen exposure at your service.
16 June 2023
As educators, providers and early education staff, you play an important role in ensuring children with allergy and anaphylaxis are able to fully participate within the daily educational program, while ensuring their health and safety.
Children diagnosed with anaphylaxis are at serious risk of significant or critical injury if exposed to known allergens. In order to protect children from harm and hazard, approved providers, nominated supervisors and family day care educators need to ensure all staff understand signs, symptoms and treatment of anaphylaxis, as well as how to manage risk for individual children, within your unique service context.
The Best Practice Guidelines for Anaphylaxis Prevention and Management will assist services to understand and implement appropriate risk management and treatment of allergy and anaphylaxis within early education services.
New improved ASCIA Action Plans now available
As the nationally recognised authority on clinical immunology and allergy, the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA) recently updated their action plans to improve ease of use. The ASCIA Action Plans meet the requirements of regulation 90 as a medical management plan and should be used to guide your immediate response and treatment of allergy and anaphylaxis.
The new plans consolidate personal information to the top of the page, offer a format where instructions for both brands of adrenaline injectors are visible on the one plan (with device specific action plans still available as a choice), and simplify instructions for the management of mild to moderate allergic reactions.
Services are advised to start using the new ASCIA action plan in consultation with families and registered medical practitioners, ideally over the next 12 months. Previous versions of ASCIA action plans will continue to meet regulatory requirements at this stage.
When updating ASCIA action plans, services are encouraged to conduct a thorough review of service-specific policies and procedures to ensure medical management practices are in line with current recommendations and that preventative measures are in place to protect children in care.
‘Right child, right meal’: Risk minimisation strategies
Effective risk minimisation is a key component of health management and a requirement under the national regulations. Each child diagnosed with allergy and/or anaphylaxis must have an individualised risk minimisation plan where specific and general risks are identified and strategies for managing those risks are clear and understood by all educators and staff. Risk minimisation needs to incorporate the needs of the child and the uniqueness of the service and its practices. Particular attention should be given to mealtimes as these activities present significant risk to children with food allergies.
Services are encouraged to review procedures and practice around all mealtimes and strengthen the knowledge of their educators to support children’s participation and health. Some important reflective questions to discuss as a team include:
What processes do we implement to ensure the right child gets the right meal?
Who checks the meal before it is given to the child? Do we have a 2-step checkpoint to assist in this process, for example the cook and an educator?
How are we communicating food risks to children’s families and external suppliers to ensure the wrong ingredient is not given to a child with allergy?
How is supervision managed across mealtimes? (This is particularly important in services with multiple rooms and educators.)
Is there consistency in our supervision plan? How do we maintain practice requirements when there is a break in normal routine, for example when a staff member is absent, or an emergency occurs during mealtimes?
Do we have dedicated staff supervising mealtimes? How do we ensure there is no significant distraction for these educators?
Review the new ASCIA Action Plans and incorporate these into current service policy and procedures.
Review your service risk minimisation plans and strategies, ensuring meal preparation, serving and supervision times are key focus areas for all diagnosed food allergies.