The 7 Mistakes Schools Make Managing Pupils with Asthma & Allergies

Schools require specialist, professional support in managing pupils with Asthma and Allergies to prevent these 7 common mistakes from happening.

Written by Nina Ferraro MSc, RNC

Allergies and asthma are on the rise

There’s no doubt that allergies and asthma are on the rise. Asthma is currently the most common chronic medical condition in children in the UK (1) and since the 1990s diagnoses of allergies in children have trebled (2). There is a higher prevalence of food allergies amongst children in the UK than in any other developed country (3), and children with both asthma and allergies are at greater risk of developing more serious or anaphylactic reactions (4). One fifth of these serious allergic reactions take place at school, and these reactions can also occur in children with no previous history of a known allergy (5).

Schools shoulder the responsibility of ensuring staff are confidently trained to prevent and manage these events. Schools also have a statutory duty to raise awareness of asthma and allergies amongst their wider school community, and promote inclusion and independence of affected pupils (6).

The 7 Common Mistakes

The 7 Common Mistakes

Through our extensive work in supporting schools we have identified 7 Common Mistakes schools make when managing pupils with asthma and allergies. We have identified these in the hope that school staff or parents will spot if their place of work or child’s school is making them too. Raising awareness and notifying school leadership teams generates practice change, helping make schools safer for children and supporting and empowering staff.

1. The false belief that First Aid training is adequate training for school staff in asthma, anaphylaxis, and allergy awareness

Although First Aid training ensures staff know how to act after unexpected medical incidents, it does not teach thorough allergy awareness and prevention. Schools must also consider how to reduce the risk of an allergic reaction happening in the first place.

2. Not organising whole school staff training in asthma, anaphylaxis and allergy awareness

Any member of staff who interacts with pupils should be able to recognise the signs and symptoms of an asthma attack or allergic reaction and know what action to take.

There is no way of knowing when or where an allergic reaction or an asthma attack will occur, and no time to call for a ‘trained’ member of staff. Anaphylaxis progresses rapidly, and staff have several minutes to respond. All staff must be confident in recognising and responding to these events.

3. Not keeping up-to-date with current advice

Evidence-based training is rapidly developing to address new findings. Keeping up-to-date means being aware of new recommendations and this is challenging for school leadership teams who have multiple other responsibilities.

For example, new evidence suggests that the practice of banning foods (such as nuts and proclaiming to be a ‘Nut-Free School’) does not help reduce the risk of accidental exposure. Food-bans are now thought to be more dangerous as a false sense of security is created within the school, and staff can fall into complacency.

4. Not having an Asthma and Allergy Policy

A policy provides the school community with a set of guidelines and sets out a clear, standardised approach to how pupils with asthma and allergies are managed. An asthma and allergy policy provides clarity and consistency, and structures a whole school approach, and staff are aware of their responsibilities.

5. Not recognising the responsibility to support pupils in managing their own asthma and allergies

Evidence shows that empowering children to manage their own medical conditions leads to better outcomes. Schools play a vital role in supporting pupils with this through education, awareness, promoting independence, and leading by example in gold-standard allergy and asthma management practice.

6. Unintentionally stigmatising pupils with asthma and allergies

Outdated policies like asking a child with allergies to sit alone during mealtimes or explaining that the class cannot do something because of another pupil’s allergies can negatively impact the child. These actions may result in pupils being bullied or feeling excluded.

7. Not acknowledging the causes of allergy bullying

Pupils with allergies experience higher incidents of bullying. They are often bullied because other pupils perceive accommodations made to keep them safe as special treatment.

Raising awareness of allergies and asthma across the whole school community will increase understanding and empathy. Coupled with evidence-based policies, this can prevent perception of special treatment.

If you would like to see how your school is performing in managing pupils with asthma and allergies and meeting statutory requirements, take the scorecard now and answer just 20 questions to receive personalised results!

Alternatively, if you would like to discuss improving support and raising allergy and asthma awareness for your school, please contact us on 020 8720 6635 or email us at

The Author has made every effort to ensure the accuracy of the information contained within this article. The Author does not accept any liability or responsibility for any inaccuracies or for any diagnosis made, or actions taken based on this information.

It is strongly advised that all school staff attend Asthma, Anaphylaxis and Allergy Awareness training to understand what to do in a medical emergency.

TEACH run specific courses covering in detail how to support pupils with asthma and allergies. Our team are highly experienced specialist nurses who will tailor the training to your needs.

Please visit, or telephone: 020 8720 6635 for more information about our courses.


1. NHS England. Childhood Asthma. [accessed at:]

2. Gupta, R., Sheikh, A., Strachan, D P., Anderson, H R. (2007). Time trends in allergic disorders in the UK. Thorax. Jan;62(1):91-6. doi: 10.1136/thx.2004.038844.

3. BSCAI (2011). Allergy in Children. [accessed at:] [accessed on:] 16.01.2023

4. Allergy UK. Anaphylaxis and Severe Allergic Reaction. [accessed at:] [accessed on:] 16.01.2023

5. Anaphylaxis UK. Safer Schools Programme. [accessed at:] [accessed on: 16.01.2023]

6. DoH (2017). Supporting pupils at school with medical conditions. [accessed at:] [access on:] 16.01.2023

7. Miller, C. (2019). School nurse numbers in UK fall by 30% since 2010. [accessed at:] [accessed on:] 16.01.2023