Objective. Although the potential for life-threatening allergic reactions in children is a significant health concern for schools, there is little information about the circumstances surrounding anaphylactic events that occur in schools. The objectives of this study were to determine the incidence of anaphylaxis in schools, describe the circumstances around anaphylactic events, assess practices that are used to manage students with life-threatening allergies, and identify opportunities for improvement.

Methods. A total of 109 school districts in Massachusetts completed an Epinephrine Administration Form whenever epinephrine was administered at school. Data were collected from September 2001 to August 2003.

Results. Forty-eight school districts reported a total of 115 administrations of epinephrine during the 2-year reporting period. In 24% of the cases, the individual was not known to have a life-threatening allergy. Almost one third (31%) of the students who received epinephrine had allergies to multiple substances, and one quarter (25%) had an allergy to peanuts or tree nuts only. Twenty-two (19%) cases occurred outside the school building on the playground, traveling to and from school, or on field trips. The administration of epinephrine most often occurred in the health office by a registered nurse. The average time from onset of symptoms to administration of epinephrine was 10 minutes. In 92% of the cases, the student was transported to a medical facility via the emergency medical system.

Conclusions. Anaphylactic reactions in schools, although not frequent, are not uncommon events. A systematic review of anaphylactic events that required epinephrine administration identified opportunities for improvement in the treatment of students with life-threatening allergies.

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