Two Kent families, whose children face life-threatening scenarios every day, have joined a national campaign urging parents and schools not to overlook allergen training as a result of coronavirus.

Anaphylaxis Campaign and Allergy UK are asking people to check the expiry dates of life-saving medication and refresh staff training after six months away from the classroom.

Joining the 'Check It, Don’t Chance It' programme is Paola Marshall from Crockham Hill whose son is allergic to nuts and sesame.

Robert Marshall,15, a budding actor who goes to Skinners' School in Tunbridge Wells was diagnosed with life threatening allergies aged just seven months.

Thankfully Robert has never suffered an anaphylactic shock but always carries two prescribed adrenaline auto-injectors (AAIs) to use in an emergency.

An AAI, often referred to as an epi pen, is an life saving piece of equipment that administers an injection of adrenaline if a person goes into anaphylactic shock - a severe allergic reaction that affects the airways, heart, circulation, gut and skin.

They have a typical shelf life of 12 to 18 months so many held in schools are likely to have expired after lockdown.

The 51-year-old says she joined the campaign to help remind schools to check equipment after a previous experience at a primary school revealed the epi pens were two months out of date.

She added: "Robert's school is very good at keeping on top of things and checking the AAIs but others aren't so on the ball and sometimes sending a gentle reminder to check is all it takes."

Robert is the youngest of three siblings. Neither his sister Anna, 20, or brother George, 19, have any allergies so when he was diagnosed it came as a shock to the family.

Mrs Marshall added: "When he was little I never left him alone at a party, I always stayed until he was about 10 and I used to make him a brightly coloured t-shirt that said all of the things he was allergic to so people couldn't miss it.

"He's very good at being aware of it himself now but I'm never relaxed about it."

Peanuts, tree nuts, milk and eggs are some of the most common allergens in children.

Most classrooms can expect to have at least one child with an allergy, with 20% of severe food allergic reactions occurring while a child is at school.

Another parent keen to ensure establishments are on top of training is Amy Powell from Edenbridge

 

Her 13 year old daughter Martha, who has just started Year 9 at the Weald of Kent Grammar School in Sevenoaks , is also allergic to nuts and sesame.

Her allergies first came to light when she was just 18 months old.

It was the stuff of nightmares when she had a reaction in the middle of her older brother Sam's fifth birthday party.

Reliving the terrifying ordeal Mrs Powell said: "It was incredibly scary because Martha started scratching at her skin and throat.

"I also have allergies, I can't eat fish, so I could tell she was having a reaction to something but at the time we didn't know what.

"We think she might have eaten a crisp that had been next to a bowl of hummus.

"In the ambulance she went floppy in my arms and it was at the point I was hysterical.

"We went to Pembury and the staff were fantastic and thankfully she didn't quite go into anaphylactic shock.

"We then had her tested by a specialist and that's when we learnt what she was allergic to."

Martha is incredibly vigilant and always carries her AAI pens around with her.

Her school's canteen is nut free and Martha can eat without having to worry about the consequences but Mrs Powell says its vital any new members of staff are informed of her needs.

Mrs Powell added: "Understandably everyone is worried about Covid-19 but we just want to make sure that training on allergens is not overlooked because it really can be a matter of life or death."

Amena Warner, Head of Clinical Services at Allergy UK said: "For parents of children with food allergy their anxiety will be particularly acute with very specific worries about the care and safety of their child in this ’new normal’ school environment.

“Schools have implemented many changes to keep pupils and staff safe during the pandemic including social distancing bubbles, regular hand washing and cleaning of shared spaces.

“However, all schools must also ensure measures are in place and they are adhering to the strict guidance governing the health care and safeguarding needs of children in schools which includes the administration of allergy medication and adrenaline auto-injectors (AAIs).”

Free training is available at www.allergywise.org.uk and the SAAG (School Allergy Action Group) free online toolkit is available at www.allergyuk.org

https://www.kentonline.co.uk/weald/news/she-went-floppy-in-my-arms-i-was-hysterical-234421/