As a child care worker, chances are you will have one or more children in your care who live with an allergy and allergy symptoms. The allergy may be to a range of different and common allergens, including:
- foods such as peanuts, cow’s milk, soy, seafood, and eggs
- animals like cats, dogs, horses or rabbits
Preventing allergen exposure is the key
As with most ailments, prevention is ideal. It’s so important that you are aware of each child’s allergy and work closely with families, colleagues, and management to minimise the risk of children coming in to contact with the substance that they are allergic to.
This could mean banning peanuts from the centre, ensuring dusting is completed regularly or taking extra care with certain children when they might have access to a particular allergen.
Of course all child care workers know that children can be spontaneous and may be unaware of the realities of having an allergy.
This means that no matter how careful you are, allergic reactions can happen while children are in your care. Spotting the symptoms and managing them is crucial.
Spotting and managing allergy symptoms in children
Children’s allergic reaction symptoms can vary but some signs for early childhood educators to watch for are:
- Red and/or itchy skin
- Tummy pain, nausea and/or vomiting
- Swelling of the face, lips and/or eyes
For children who have severe allergies, an anaphylaxis response can occur which has more serious symptoms such as:
- Swelling of the tongue
- Difficulty breathing
- Tightness in the throat
- Wheezing or persistent coughing
- Dizziness and/or collapse
Keep in mind that an allergic reaction may occur right away or sometimes several hours after exposure.
Treating allergic reactions
Children with known allergies will likely have an action plan or management plan for their allergies which will guide child care workers on how to manage the symptoms. In some cases treatment can be antihistamines or asthma medications, while anaphylactic reactions may need to be quickly treated with an adrenaline auto-injector (EpiPen is a well-known brand of these).
When in doubt, contact a child’s parent and/or GP. For severe reactions, always call an ambulance.
As a child care worker dealing with an allergic reaction, stay calm and follow your centre’s procedures for allergies – if you have any concerns, make sure you chat to your colleagues, management or trainer so you can handle allergies confidently within your role.
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