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Area schools guard against students' allergic reactions

Thursday - 1/5/2012, 4:47pm  ET

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Darci Marchese, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - The D.C.-area's two largest school systems say they tailor health plans to individual students who suffer from potentially deadly allergies.

WTOP looked into the issue after a first-grade student in Chesterfield County, Va. suffered an apparent allergic reaction Monday at school and died.

Fairfax County Public Schools spokesperson Mary Shaw says the system, which serves nearly 178,000 students, is in the middle of producing district-wide guidelines on how to deal with and treat students with allergies.

Shaw says officials want parents, teachers and school leaders to be on the same page, and students in general are treated on a case-by-case basis. Some are allowed to keep epinephrine -- which can be used to treat reactions caused by things like insect bites and foods -- with them while other students will have to get the treatment from the school nurse.

Shaw says students who need them will have "individualized health plans."

In Montgomery County -- which has an enrollment of about 144,000 students -- the policy is similar. Public schools spokesperson Dana Tofig tells WTOP that parents and health staff communicate and have plans already in place for students with allergies, and have medication on hand. The school can treat the students in an emergency without additional parental consent.

According to The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network, Maryland is one of 10 states that has recently passed legislation regarding food allergies and caring for food-allergic children in school.

In one statute in the law, it states "the effects of epinephrine injection may wear off rapidly and place the student at risk for recurrence of symptoms. Therefore, school nurses should discuss with the family the need to have a second auto-injector available."

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)