Highlands & Islands

Caithness mum wants allergy emergency law for schools and nurseries

Lewis Drummond Image copyright Catrina Drummond
Image caption Lewis, 3, joined the social media campaign to get the petition off the ground
Presentational white space

A Highland mum campaigning to make allergy training a legal requirement for staff in schools and nurseries believes the move could save lives.

Catrina Drummond's three-year-old son Lewis had a severe reaction to cow's milk last year.

It prompted her to find funding for allergy training for his nursery carers.

Now she has lodged a petition at the Scottish Parliament calling for similar training for staff across Scotland.

Her proposal will be discussed by the petitions committee on Thursday.

At present, the Scottish government says children's individual care plans are the responsibility of their care-giving institution.

Its guidance is that staff should be allergy-trained if any pupils are at risk of anaphylaxis - a life-threatening allergic reaction - but this is not a legal requirement.

Ms Drummond, from Latheron in Caithness, wants this to change.

She told BBC Radio Scotland's Kaye Adams programme she started the petition after a scare involving her three-year-old son Lewis last year.

Image copyright SDM Photography
Image caption Catrina with Lewis, 3, and his older brother Donnie, 5

Lewis was diagnosed with severe allergies to cow's milk and peanuts at the age of one.

She said: "Last summer he had a reaction at a friend's house. He ate a piece of cake which we thought was fine for him.

"When we got home he started to react. I spoke to the friend's mum and discovered that without thinking she had added a few drops of cow's milk to the cake.

"The reaction developed into hives, diarrhoea, the hives went to his throat and his voice changed. I administered his EpiPen and called an ambulance.

"He needed a course of steroids. Alarm bells started ringing, as it was from such a small amount."

'Severe reaction'

She discovered a petition in England to the UK government calling for allergy care legislation for schools.

Catrina created her own petition for Scotland which she lodged in November.

She said: "I am asking for the government to pass legislation that will make an allergy care policy statutory in every nursery and school and to establish appropriate standards for nursery and school staff on medical training, education and care for children with life-threatening allergies."

Image copyright Rina Cheema
Image caption Karanbir Cheema died in intensive care after a fatal allergic reaction

In 2017, 13-year-old Karanbir Cheema from London, who suffered a dairy allergy, died after a slice of cheese was flicked at his neck by a fellow pupil at William Perkin Church of England High School.

A coroner said the case was "extremely rare" but said the health care given to him at the school was "inadequate".

Catrina thinks the situation could happen again if facilities and training are not put in place.

An estimated 20 deaths from anaphylaxis are reported each year in the UK. About 8% of children in the UK suffer from allergies.

Allergy expert Dr Hazel Gowland thinks making training a legal requirement would help manage instances of extreme reactions.

Image copyright Scottish Parliament
Image caption Ms Drummond's petition was due to be discussed at committee on Wednesday

She said: "Setting that level of standard and expectation is definitely needed. We have more and more of these children who are living with complex allergies and it's a big load on everybody. It has to be recognised.

"This is an issue that won't go away and we need to address it."

The Scottish government's current position is that it does not believe a statutory approach is necessary.

Image copyright SDM Photography
Image caption Ms Drummond hopes staff will be able to deal with any emergencies cased by her son Lewis's allergies

A spokeswoman said: "Our guidance on supporting children and young people with healthcare needs in schools is clear that those affected should have those needs met through an agreed individualised plan. This includes young people affected by allergies.

"Care providers must make proper provision for the health, welfare and safety of all children in their care and consider any training and qualifications required for staff who manage medicines."

Highland Council, which oversees Lewis's nursery, said: "In addition to the special diet process we have in place, the council's catering service has recently delivered food allergy specific training to all cooks and we are currently in the process of developing an Allergen Policy."

More on this story