Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia (A&AA) does not promote nut/food bans for many reasons. In saying this, we do encourage allergen minimisation in younger years of primary school (sending a note home to a class where there is a young child with a food allergy and asking that particular foods are not brought in but never presuming they won’t be – the class must have strategies in place/a procedure for when it does come in because it will, either intentionally or unintentionally).
In saying we do not support food bans in schools, A&AA does NOT encourage nuts to be brought into school or used in curricular or extracurricular activities. There is no reason why a student can’t have nuts for breakfast and nuts for afternoon tea once they are home. For most they are healthy nutritious foods that can be eaten away from children with nut allergy when possible BUT we do not ever want to presume nuts are never around because that is when accidents happen and people can be unprepared.
It is important that schools have a number of strategies in place to minimise the risk of ANY allergic reaction.
- Staff need to have credible training specific to allergy and anaphylaxis.
- They need to practice with adrenaline (epinephrine) injector training devices regularly (at least once a term).
- Parents need to disclose allergy to school and provide an in date adrenaline injector (such as EpiPen®, Anapen®) and ASCIA Action Plan for Anaphylaxis completed by their doctor.
- The whole school community needs to be aware of food and insect allergy and know what manageable procedures are in place to reduce risk of an allergic reaction. These strategies need to be implemented and not just on paper.
Risk of a reaction can never be eliminated, it can only be reduced. All school staff need to know:
- What an allergic reaction might look like
- Know what the school's emergency response procedure is and put it in to action promptly whether they are on excursion, on playground, at sport, on camp etc.
- All staff must be able to recognise the students at risk of anaphylaxis.
Many schools call themselves ‘nut free or peanut free’. We discourage bans and discourage use of these terms. We encourage the development of several strategies to reduce risk and encourage schools to be ‘allergy aware’ environments with strategies actually implemented and not just ticked off on paper.
Other examples of strategies that help reduce the risk of anaphylaxis:
- No food sharing
- Hand washing after eating
- Class discussion on how children without allergy can support people with allergy
- Education of child with food allergy and teaching them how to manage when the allergen is around (at an age appropriate level of course)
- All children knowing which classmates have food allergy, telling a teacher quickly if your classmate with food allergy looks sick or says they are sick.
We have had so many parents and schools over a period of 20 years acknowledge that peanut bans and nut free schools do not work because they still have nuts come into the school. Two examples:
- A school that has a ‘nut free’ canteen (for at least 9 years) served satay food at a school activity.
- A childcare centre that asked parents to bring a plate into their preschool for Halloween activities and did not remind parents not to use nuts and did not check food as it came in even though they are a ‘nut free’ centre.
Our experience is that bans can lull parents and staff into a false sense of security believing that risk is removed or minimal because the food is banned. Even when food is banned, it is in schools. It is important there is greater emphasis on the many strategies to manage risk than a belief that a food is successfully banned.
We want to do our best to prevent severe allergic reactions and indeed fatalities. We want to work on a system that supports individuals with any food allergy be it milk, egg, peanut, tree nut or sesame.
The Best Practice Guidelines for Anaphylaxis Prevention and Management in Schools and Children's Education and Care (CEC) services were launched in late 2021. These guidelines can be accessed at https://www.allergyaware.org.au.
The Allergy Aware website has information specific for:
Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA):
Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia (A&AA):
- Approaching the management of anaphylaxis in schools/childcare
Content updated April 2022