What do school personnel know, think and feel about food allergies?

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Abstract

© 2013 Polloni et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.Background: The incidence of food allergy is such that most schools will be attended by at least one food allergic child, obliging school personnel to cope with cases at risk of severe allergic reactions. Schools need to know about food allergy and anaphylaxis management to ensure the personal safety of an increasing number of students. The aim of this study was to investigate Italian school teachers and principals’ knowledge, perceptions and feelings concerning food allergy and anaphylaxis, to deeply understand how to effectively support schools to manage a severely allergic child. In addition a further assessment of the impact of multidisciplinary courses on participants was undertaken. Methods: 1184 school teachers and principals attended courses on food allergy and anaphylaxis management at school were questioned before and after their course. Descriptive and inferential statistics were used to analyze the resulting data. Results: Participants tended to overestimate the prevalence of food allergy; 79.3% were able to identify the foods most likely involved and 90.8% knew the most frequent symptoms. 81.9% were familiar with the typical symptoms of anaphylaxis but, while the majority (65.4%) knew that “adrenaline” is the best medication for anaphylaxis, only 34.5% knew indications of using adrenaline in children. 48.5% thoroughly understood dietary exclusion. School personnel considered that food allergic students could have social difficulties (10.2%) and/or emotional consequences (37.2%) because of their condition. “Concern” was the emotion that most respondents (66.9%) associated with food allergy. At the end of the course, the number of correct answers to the test increased significantly. Conclusions: Having adequately trained and cooperative school personnel is crucial to significantly reduce emergencies and fatal reactions. The results emphasize the need for specific educational interventions and improvements in school health policies to support schools to deal with allergic students ensuring their safety and psychological well-being.

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Polloni, L., Lazzarotto, F., Toniolo, A., Ducolin, G., & Muraro, A. (2013). What do school personnel know, think and feel about food allergies? Clinical and Translational Allergy, 3(1), 1–8. https://doi.org/10.1186/2045-7022-3-39

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