Managing Allergies on Class Trips: All Students Should Go – part 2

Part 2: Safety First

The European Centre for Allergy Research Foundation (ECARF) spoke with Beate Deckelmann, 47, the school nurse at Berlin Brandenburg International School (BBIS), about the best way to prepare for a class trip including children with allergies. Inpart 1, she talked about her experiences in planning ahead and speaking with accommodations providers. Now she explains in part 2 how she prepares teachers and parents.

The checklist at the end of this article may be helpful for anyone planning a class trip including children with allergies.

Teacher training

The teachers supervising the class trip are also involved in the preparation. “The week before the trip, I review which allergy symptoms need to be monitored in which children and the correct way to handle emergencies. For example, how do I use an EpiPen or asthma inhaler? Where is the EpiPen stored during the class trip? What is the sequence of actions to be taken? We also go over very basic but important things, such as the address of the youth hostel, so that an ambulance can be called immediately to the right place in case of emergency.” Deckelmann smiles. “Most of them feel as if they’ve already heard it all. But once in a while we hit upon something that they didn’t know before. In the end, they all start the trip with a sense of security.”

Questionnaire for the parents

Before the class trip, the parents fill out a questionnaire indicating any allergies, intolerances or other diseases their children may have. They are asked about any necessary medications. They also receive an email reminder from the school requesting them to check the expiry date of the medication and whether there is enough to cover the entire trip.

The younger students with allergies leave their medications with the teacher. Depending on the students’ level of development and experience in taking the medication, they can self-administer their medications as of year 6. “I know the children too”, Deckelmann explains. “If there is any doubt, I make the decision together with the parents. Some medications, especially inhalers, are not always straightforward to administer. They don’t all work in the same way. In these cases, I make sure again that the students and teachers are well informed.”

The emergency kit

Children at risk of an anaphylactic reaction to certain allergens need to carry an emergency kit on their person, which can be a belt bag or a small backpack. “All of our students know what these bags look like. In any case, the emergency kit is shown to all of the supervisors so that they know what to look for in the event of an emergency”, says Deckelmann, explaining the precautionary measures. “For our daily routine, we store extra EpiPens in designated places throughout the school buildings. There is always one within reach in case of emergency.”

The school initially considered whether to have both students and teachers carry a pre-filled syringe on class trips. “But we decided instead that the student has to carry two EpiPens”, says the school nurse. “This is in case the auto-injector is used incorrectly on the first try and cannot be reused.”

She has received a lot of positive feedback from the parents on these safety precautions. “The parents feel reassured”, she says. “The children themselves sometimes find it annoying to always have to walk around wearing a belt bag. But we have to insist that safety comes first”, says the school nurse with conviction. “We are really strict when it comes to that. Once a student wanted to travel with her team to a school sports competition. Shortly before leaving, we realised she had forgotten to pack her asthma medication and it was already too late to go and fetch it. We made the decision not to let her go.” Deckelmann nods. “We believe it is really important that students learn to take responsibility for themselves. That is part of our philosophy.”

ECARF tips on how to prepare for a class trip

For teachers:

  • Make sure the children always have their emergency medication with them.
  • Explain to all of the children that they need to obtain permission from the teacher before sharing their own food with others.
  • Make sure right from the start that the cook knows exactly how severe the children’s allergies are and what to watch out for.

For parents:

  • Describe the allergy to the supervising teachers and make sure they know what the child must avoid and what to watch out for.
  • Inform the teacher about the symptoms of an allergic reaction and explain what they should do.
  • Check the expiry date of your child’s medication and how much is left before the class trip.
  • Call the youth hostel or travel destination in advance and discuss the accommodations and meals in detail if the school has not already done so.

Read Part 1: All students should go on class trips