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 occurring

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 Mistakes Schools Make Managing Pupils with Asthma & Allergies

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. There is a false belief that First Aid training provides adequate preparation for school staff in asthma, anaphylaxis, and allergy awareness

Although First Aid training is valuable for ensuring that staff know how to react in an emergency, it does not teach allergy awareness and prevention. First Aid teaches how to react after the fact, whereas schools also need to consider how to reduce the risk of an allergic reaction occurring in the first place.


2. Only selected staff attend training on asthma and anaphylaxis

Any member of staff who interacts with pupils should be able to recognise the signs and symptoms of an asthma attack or an allergic reaction and know what action to take. There is no way of knowing when or where an allergic reaction will occur, and no time to call for a trained member of staff. Anaphylaxis progresses rapidly, and staff have only several minutes to respond. All staff must be confident in recognising and responding to a severe allergic reaction, as well as in knowing the difference between anaphylaxis and an asthma attack.

3. Schools are failing to keep up-to-date with current advice

Keeping up to date means being aware of new recommendations. For example, new evidence suggests that banning food containing common allergens from school, such as nuts, does not reduce the risk of accidental exposure and may be more dangerous by creating complacency and a false sense of security in the school.

Current advice now is for schools to be allergy-aware rather than allergy-free, and recommendations are for schools to practice whole-school allergy awareness.

4. Schools lack an asthma and allergy policy

A policy provides the school community with a set of guidelines to adhere to and establishes a clear, standardised approach to how the school manages pupils with asthma and allergies.

An asthma and allergy policy offers clarity and consistency and ensures a comprehensive school-wide approach to managing pupils with these conditions.

5. School overlook their responsibilities in supporting pupils with asthma and allergies to manage their own conditions

Evidence shows that empowering children to manage their own medical conditions leads to better outcomes, and schools play a role in supporting pupils with this through education programs and one-to-one support.

6. Well-meaning staff can unintentionally stigmatise pupils with asthma and allergies

Outdated policies, such as 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 allergic pupil. These actions may result in pupils being bullied or feeling excluded.

7. Peer allergy bullying may stem from resentment or a lack of awareness, and many schools do not always acknowledge

Pupils with allergies may face bullying because other pupils perceive accommodations as special treatment. Raising awareness of allergies and asthma across the school community will increase understanding and empathy. Coupled with evidence-based policies, this can prevent any perceptions of special treatment.

If you would like to assess how well your school is managing pupils with asthma and allergies and meeting statutory requirements, take the scorecard now. Answer just 20 questions to receive personalized results!

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

The author has made every effort to ensure the accuracy of the information contained within this article. However, 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 offers 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

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