As the rate of children’s food allergies has increased in recent years, so has the need for effective and accessible allergy management training for school staff. In a study published online in Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, Connell School Clinical Assistant Professor Laura White and her team of researchers found that a short, comprehensive computer module on the fundamentals of food allergies increased knowledge and confidence among teachers and school staff dealing with them.

The 30-minute PowerPoint program, developed by pediatric allergists with guidance from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health School Health Services, provided training in allergy prevention, recognition of symptoms, treatment, and social-emotional issues surrounding allergies, such as bullying. School nurses—all members of the Massachusetts School Nurse Research Network—offered the module to teachers and staff at six Massachusetts public schools as an optional supplement to health-focused orientation sessions.

The researchers evaluated knowledge, confidence, and attitude toward student allergies before and after participants viewed the module and found increases in participants’ scores in all three areas after viewing the module. Participants reported that they learned new information, such as the fact that allergens are present in some nonfood school materials, and new practices, such as injector insertion.

According to the authors, the results revealed a particular need for staff education about allergy-related bullying. Before viewing the module, only 29.4 percent of participants viewed students with food allergies as at risk of being bullied compared with 85.9 percent of participants afterward.

—Research summary by John Shakespear