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Australian moves for anaphylaxis legislation

20 September 2005

Australian moves for anaphylaxis legislation highlights trans-Tasman divide

A New South Wales Coroners Court recommendations for new legislation to help protect children who suffer from severe allergic reactions highlights how far behind New Zealand is.

Deputy State Coroner Jacqueline Milledge called for legislation similar to the Canada’s ‘Sabrina’s Law’ after an inquest into the death of 13-year-old Sydney schoolboy, Hamidur Rahman, who died from an anaphylactic reaction after eating peanut butter at a school camp in March 2002.

This legislation would make it mandatory that all staff in both schools and childcare centres in the public and private sector be trained in allergy awareness and emergency treatment. The legislation would also safeguard teachers and staff from prosecution if an act done to manage or save a child were undertaken in ‘good faith’.

These findings have been welcomed by the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA) — a professional body of allergy specialists — and patient-based support groups Anaphylaxis Australia Inc and Allergy New Zealand.

Auckland-based paediatric allergist and New Zealand representative of ASCIA’ s Anaphylaxis Working Party Dr Jan Sinclair says New Zealand is in a worse position than Australia because there is no national approach to manage allergies in pre-schools and schools.

“The reason we’re in a worse position is because our health and education departments haven’t identified severe food allergies as an issue to address. It has been left to families in pre-school groups to instigate any training and awareness.”

She says that in schools, the level of awareness and training is variable and often public health nurses have picked up that allergic children don’t even have a management plan.

“Children with severe allergies need to be identified as being at risk,” Dr Sinclair says. “They need to have a management in place between family or caregivers and the school in order to manage accidental exposures to foods that trigger an allergic reaction and treat them if they do occur.”

In contrast, NSW implemented a policy on guidelines to manage anaphylaxis in schools in 2003.

Ms Milledge made 17 recommendations to the NSW education minister, health minister and the attorney-general to improve awareness of the danger of food allergies.

Allergy New Zealand applauds these findings and is in the midst of making approaches to the Education and Health departments to follow Australia’s path.

“We have been working in this area for years, using our education kits to help both parents and schools work together to implement management plans and minimise risk,” says Allergy New Zealand’s spokesperson Inga Stünzner.

“However, the recent developments in Australia and Canada have really spurred us on to push for compulsory anaphylaxis training in schools and preschools. We don’t want to wait for a death for this to happen.”

“Anaphylaxis is manageable if people are educated on its everyday management. This means getting a correct diagnosis, understanding what triggers an allergic reaction, what symptoms to look out for and how to treat it.”

ENDS

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