By Gary Fitzgerald
Joyce Schoettler, MD, is always astonished when a child with anaphylaxis does not receive epinephrine – in some cases even after arriving at the emergency room.
Why? Too many people don’t take anaphylaxis seriously enough, Schoettler believes. Some turn to over-the-counter antihistamines as a first line of treatment.
This is “dangerous” – a point that Schoettler, Edward Buchsbalm, MD, and the nursing staff at South Bay Allergy & Asthma Associates in Torrance, Calif., drive home as part of AANMA’s Anaphylaxis Community Experts (ACEs) program.
Like other ACE teams around the country, South Bay Allergy & Asthma Associates hosts workshops for parents and teachers. They hold sessions with employees from area businesses as well as a local women’s charity organization.
“It’s shocking to our audiences when we tell them the average time to full respiratory and cardiac arrest after ingestion of a food allergen is only 30 minutes,” Schoettler says. “This does get their attention and helps make the case for epinephrine use.”
South Bay Allergy & Asthma Associates recently hosted a presentation at Discoveryland preschool in Torrance where they instructed 20 teachers how to recognize anaphylaxis and when to use an epinephrine auto-injector.
After the presentation, Schoettler noted that teachers seemed to be more confident about what to do in a food allergy emergency – no more second-guessing themselves.
“Preparation is key,” she says. “Having epinephrine available is life-saving, but it also takes a calm and collected caregiver to know when to use it and to do so without hesitation.”
Lisa Lin, RN, Ruena Mantes, RN, and Anna Chocholek, RN, of South Bay Allergy & Asthma Associates are proactive when speaking with parents who are hesitant to administer epinephrine – or even carry it.
“I spoke with a mom who didn’t know the importance of keeping the two epinephrine auto-injectors in the twin-pack together,” Lin said. “She thought it was more convenient to carry one device in her purse and leave the other at school. She had no idea that her child could experience another anaphylactic episode requiring her to use the second device. It was an awesome ‘a-ha’ moment.”
Mantes hopes that the ACE presentations result in a “chain reaction of awareness” as parents and teachers pass on what they learned.
Said Schoettler: “By bringing the ACEs message to your community, you teach those on the front lines how to respond to an anaphylaxis emergency and you help save lives in a very real sense.”
Reviewed by Tera Crisalida, PA-C