Being stung by a bee or exposed to poison ivy often is just a small inconvenience—simple first aid generally relieves pain or itching in a few minutes. Sometimes, though, an allergic reaction can turn the situation into a medical emergency, and even be fatal. Proper maintenance can reduce the likelihood of exposure, and a medical response plan can help your ministry become better prepared to handle allergic reactions.
Maintaining the ministry’s building and grounds can reduce the risk of a sting, bite, or exposure to dangerous plants. Occasionally inspect the entire property, looking for beehives, wasp nests, poisonous plants, and other hazards. Work to eliminate any potential trouble spots.
Even when property is well maintained, insects and other pests can irritate. Create a written medical response plan that outlines how the ministry will respond to a range of medical situations, including allergic reactions. It’s a good idea to write a plan that covers:
Staffing and volunteers. Try to have at least one person on site who is trained in basic first-aid skills, CPR techniques, AED use, and how to follow the ministry’s medical response plan. This person also should be able to recognize the symptoms of severe allergic reactions, such as itching, hives, dizziness, or difficulty breathing.
First-aid kits. List the items that should be included in each kit, where kits are stored, how often to inspect items to make sure they aren’t beyond their expiration dates, and which individuals are responsible for maintaining the kits.
Allergy documentation. Encourage employees, volunteers, and attendees to inform the safety team of any known allergies. For example, if someone has been prescribed epinephrine to deal with bee stings, knowing this information can help others respond quickly if needed.
Procedures with minors. If a young child has an allergy and parents are not on site, it may be best to arrange for an adult staff member to hold onto allergy medication while the child is under the ministry’s care. This staff member should be trained on how to apply the medication when seconds count. Consider using a Special Medical Needs Agreement to document this arrangement between the ministry and families.
Emergency contacts. Make sure that the appropriate people know how to quickly summon first responders If someone has an extreme allergic reaction.
All ministry policies and forms should be reviewed and approved by a local attorney, ministry leadership, and qualified medical personnel before putting them into effect. Your area may be home to unique threats that local personnel can help to pinpoint and avoid.
Train employees and volunteers on medical response plans before the plan is used. If someone suffers an allergic reaction while under the ministry’s care, trained personnel will be more ready to follow the ministry’s emergency response plan.
Once treatment of an allergic reaction is complete, consider these follow-up measures:
Document the incident. Complete a Notice of Injury form as soon as possible. This form will help preserve the facts about the situation while they are still fresh.
Make improvements, if needed. Discuss what happened. If the ministry can take steps to help prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future, do so.
Dealing with an allergic reaction can be intimidating, especially for those who are not trained to handle the situation. By following a well-written emergency response plan, trained ministry personnel will be better prepared to help keep your people safe.
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