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Allergy policy for schools welcomed

Victorian schools will roll out a compulsory anaphylaxis policy from the start of term two this year.

ALEXANDRA BOLKAS March 14, 2014 6:21am

Great idea: Tamara Currie, pictured with her children Ruby, 11, George, 5, and Audrey, 7, Currie-McLellan, is pleased with a new anaphylaxis policy to be rolled out in Victorian schools.

A Shepparton mother whose son suffers from a severe dairy allergy has welcomed a compulsory anaphylaxis policy to be rolled out in all Victorian schools.

Victorian Education Minister Martin Dixon yesterday announced the new guidelines that would be enforced from the start of term two.

The guidelines state teachers must be trained in anaphylaxis management and have back-up EpiPens on site.

Schools will also be required to develop an individual anaphylaxis plan for students at risk.

Anaphylaxis is a whole-body reaction to an allergen that can result in death.

Tamara Currie’s son George, 5, has severe allergies to cow’s milk, avocado, kiwi fruit and strawberries and a mild allergy to tomatoes.

He develops an anaphylactic reaction when he inhales or consumes dairy.

Mrs Currie said George’s symptoms included red, itchy hives, whole-body swelling and a barking cough symptomatic of his airwaves closing.

‘‘He says the itching feels like he’s being bitten by a million bees and his eyes and mouth swell,’’ she said.

‘‘When this happens he’s screaming, gets hysterical and his adrenaline is pumping which drives his allergy.’’

She said the first time her son went into anaphylactic shock was horrendous.

‘‘He was about two and he broke the lock on the fridge and grabbed a tub of yoghurt and started to eat it,’’ she said.

‘‘It was absolutely horrendous, you could see his reaction building, it was a very bad experience.’’

Without a support group in Shepparton, Mrs Currie said learning how to manage her son’s allergy was a difficult trial and error process.

‘‘It was such a lonely world, I wish I had 10 per cent of the knowledge I have now, back then,’’ she said.

But she was particularly nervous for George to start school this year at Grahamvale Primary School.

‘‘It was a big milestone for us. Before he started school we met with teachers and explained his situation,’’ she said.

‘‘We worked out things that were achievable goals to keep George safe.’’

She said the school made sure there was no food sharing and enforced compulsory handwashing after food contact.

George also has his own bag complete with information of how to treat his allergies that he gives to the yard duty teacher every lunch and recess.

She said the school’s proactive method of dealing with George’s allergy had reduced much of her anxiety.

Yesterday, she welcomed the Victorian Government’s rollout of a uniform anaphylaxis policy.

‘‘It needs to be the same across the board. If the policy is the same in every school, there is not as much complacency which is when issues arise,’’ she said.

She said the policy measure ensuring all schools had a back up EpiPen was an important move.

‘‘That’s a fantastic change. That will save lives,’’ she said.

‘‘Schools aren’t permitted to use another child’s EpiPen so it could save the life of a child whose having an anaphylactic reaction for the first time.’’

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