School unable to supervise boy with killer allergy

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The Independent Online
A BOY aged five with a severe allergy to nuts is being kept away from school because his parents fear he could die without one-to-one playground supervision.

Neil MacLeman started school last year at Applegrove Primary in Forres, Moray, but his parents were fearful because he had suffered a severe reaction to eating a cashew nut and are now teaching him at home. His father, David Mac- Leman, a manager with Scottish Hydro-Electric, said: "It only takes seconds to strike. His throat swelled up and he had great difficulty breathing. It was terrible to see."

The allergic response, known as anaphylactic shock,typically results in the throat closing up, a fall in blood pressure and the patient rapidly losing consciousness. It is becoming increasingly prevalent and causes about six deaths a year.

Neil was saved by a swift injection of adrenaline, which those at risk normally carry with them. But failure to administer the drug quickly can be dangerous. Ross Baillie, the Scots sprint hurdler, recently died after eating a chicken sandwich with a trace of nuts.

Mr MacLeman said: "Neil has a potentially life-threatening condition and his severe reaction to certain foods means he must be closely supervised at all times, especially during playtime and lunchtime at school."

Teachers at the school have been trained in life-saving techniques and adrenaline is kept on the premises, but the MacLemans have decided to teach Neil at home because Moray education authority cannot afford to provide one-to-one supervision in the playground. At one time Neil's mother, Kate, spent three weeks monitoring him at break-times but she had to stop because of other commitments.

More than 500,000 people are affected by severe allergy at some time in their lives, according to Dr John Warner, Professor of Child Health at Southampton General Hospital. As well as nuts, allergens can include milk, eggs, soya, sesame, shellfish, insect stings and natural rubber.

Many pre-school nurseries are now nut-free environments, according to the Anaphylaxis Campaign, which was founded in 1994 after Sarah Reading, 17, the daughter of the campaign's director, died after eating a lemon meringue pie containing traces of nut.

A campaign spokeswoman said: "The situation becomes more difficult for parents with children at infant school, because they are too young to administer adrenaline themselves and children around them are eating foods to which they may be allergic. Naturally parents become worried."

She said that some infant schools were now nut-free, but that was difficult to achieve. "Some parents do not wish to co-operate. So what do you do? Search every lunch box every day? You can't." She said in some cases, schools made sure that an allergic child sat at a certain table so that checks could be made on all the boxes on that table.

Yesterday, a spokesman for Moray council said: "We are doing everything we can to ensure that Neil is properly cared for. Several of his teachers are trained to give his medicines if he had a reaction.We hope to meet Neil's parents next week to make sure they feel he is adequately supervised."

The Anaphylaxis Campaign is on 01252 542029.

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