Teachers know a great deal. Whether it’s the symbolism in William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” or the social responses to World War II, one would be hard-pressed to find a teacher that isn’t well-versed in their particular field. But one area that many teachers find themselves lacking the knowledge for is the ability to provide medical attention to their students in the case of an emergency.
Food allergies are a common medical condition that appear frequently throughout any high school student population. When one is allergic to food, their immune system treats a normally harmless protein in food as a threat. Among the most common food allergens are peanuts, fish and dairy. According to Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), one in 13 children has a food allergy. In a high school setting, this equates to roughly two or three students per classroom. Though abstaining from certain dishes and snacks that contain an allergen may not sound difficult, it’s not uncommon for someone with a food allergy to experience a meal quickly go awry.
FARE states that 40 percent of children with food allergies have had a severe allergic reaction, such as anaphylaxis. This occurs when an over-release of chemicals sends the body into shock, causing symptoms such as hives or swelling of the throat and tongue.
If a student is ever to notice trouble breathing or a skin rash after returning to class from lunch, their teacher should be trained to handle the situation appropriately. This would involve training teachers how to administer an EpiPen, or an epinephrine auto-injector, which is used to treat anaphylaxis.
“It would be comforting if teachers had some form of medical training to know what to do in the event of a student going into anaphylactic shock.”
“I have a peanut allergy that could be deadly,” junior Aaron Blanco said. “It would be comforting if teachers had some form of medical training to know what to do in the event of a student going into anaphylactic shock. Training teachers how to use an EpiPen has the potential to save many students’ lives.”
When medical emergencies require a teacher to dial 911, they should still know how to prepare students for the most effective medical attention. In the event that a student’s heart stops functioning, teachers should know how to keep the student’s blood pumping through their body and oxygen flowing to their brain. This can be achieved through cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or what’s more commonly known as CPR.
The American Heart Association (AHA) defines CPR as “an emergency lifesaving procedure performed when the heart stops beating.” Since CPR maintains the flow of blood – as well as the oxygen it contains – throughout the body, it is vital that it is performed as soon as a student is in cardiac arrest. The AHA states that for every minute that someone suffering cardiac arrest does not receive CPR and defibrillation, their chances of survival decrease by seven to 10 percent.
“[Teachers] need to know what to do if a student was to get injured and need immediate assistance.”
On a large campus like CCHS, it would be helpful, and potentially life-saving, if at least one teacher on each floor of every building was trained to administer CPR. Because CPR certification often comes at a price, school districts should offer free CPR classes to teachers.
“As someone who is CPR certified, I think it is very important for teachers to know how to administer CPR,” sophomore Ava Ruotolo said. “They need to know what to do if a student was to get injured and need immediate assistance and a rescue team couldn’t be there for another 10 to 15 minutes.”
But a medical emergency is not the only event in which a teacher’s medical training could come in handy. Teachers should be able to tell the difference between when a student is simply getting over a virus and when the symptoms they are exhibiting demand a visit to the clinic. Many students try to power through their sickness out of fear of missing an important lesson or quiz in class, but attending school too soon may be putting other students at risk or even making their own recovery longer. The best interest of students should be a priority, and sometimes that involves seeing when one should be in bed rather than in calculus.
With the amount of worrisome scenarios or situations that can occur at any second, it’s impossible to truly prepare teachers for anything and everything that might happen in their classrooms. But, even though teachers can’t be trained to handle every potential scenario, they should be equipped with the skills and resources necessary to best respond to the medical emergencies that do arise.
Photo courtesy of Dave Dugdale