By Brenda Silvia-Torma and Sally Schoessler
Janice McPhee, MSN, RN, is the school nurse you would want to care for your child. She is well versed in evidence-based care, works to find solutions and really cares for students.
McPhee recently worked to implement a latex-safe environment in the Ballston Spa Central School District in Ballston Spa, New York, to help a family whose child has a severe latex allergy. Allergy & Asthma Network spoke with McPhee, an Anaphylaxis Community Experts (ACE) volunteer, about latex prevention measures at her school.
AAN: You helped your school raise awareness of latex allergy. How did the idea of a latex-safe school come about?
McPhee: In Ballston Spa, we have students and staff members with latex allergies. The parents of a student with latex allergy had to take their child home from an event at the elementary school after the child had a reaction to the latex balloons used for decoration. They asked the principal to help their child and we went to work as a team to find a solution.
AAN: What was your role in the developing and implementing latex prevention measures?
McPhee: I brought the parents’ concerns and latex allergy information to the school district’s Environmental Safety Committee. Nurses had removed latex from products used in our offices several years ago and we had removed latex gloves from our kitchens. Now we decided to remove items containing latex from the district’s purchasing list.
Once we explained the risks of latex allergy, there was no resistance to the initiative from parents or the school district. The Coordinator of Science K-12 worked diligently to adjust science projects that included latex balloons and other latex products.
AAN: Why is latex prevention in schools so important?
McPhee: Latex can be found in so many places in the school setting. The most common items you can find it in are gloves, bandages, balloons, science equipment and rubber mats. We are protecting our students and staff members from a potential anaphylactic reaction.
Are we totally latex free? Probably not, but we continue to educate staff and families about why it’s important to remain vigilant. Staff members often approach me to discuss latex products and review options.
ACE volunteers are in the perfect position to help parents, children and staff who live with latex allergy. Add your voice to theirs and advocate for a latex-safe environment at school.