It is no secret: more and more children have serious and/or life-threatening allergies. For many of these kids, even being in the same area as the allergen can be deadly.
For parents of non-allergic children, the growing allergy concerns can lead to misconceptions or lapses in precautions. Throughout this week, we will break down some basic myths and facts, learn about classroom food best practices, and hear (from me!) what it was like to grow up with a severe food allergy.
Note: All facts and statistics are from Food Allergy Research & Education. Please visit their website for further information.
There are an estimated 15 million people in the USA that have food allergies. This includes 1 in 13 children under the age of 18. That roughly translated to approximately two children per classroom with food allergies.
For parents of non-allergic children, this means that you will need to contend with this each and every day for all of your child’s PK-12 education.
For parents of allergic children, this means that you are not alone!
Know that allergy status is considered medical information, and is not able to be shared due to HIPAA. Your teacher(s) might be able to tell you that there IS an allergy or allergies in the classroom, but not who has the allergy. Teachers also will often share information about “banned foods” for their classrooms.
There are several ways that a person with a food allergy might react
- anaphylaxis: this is the most common/well known reaction
- GI track: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea reactions are less well known and often dismissed as a “sensitivity”
- skin/other: this could be a rash, itchy feeling, anxiety and may occur in conjunction with other symptoms
Appropriate response generally includes immediate use of an EpiPen, followed by calling 911 for a trip to the hospital for monitoring. Students who are prescribed an EpiPen keep them in the nurses office. Additionally, many states now allow EpiPens to be administered to students who seem to be have a reaction to a previously unknown allergen.
There are eight common allergens:
- Tree nuts
Even a trace amount of an allergen can cause a potentially deadly reaction. And the food doesn’t have to be eaten. The allergen could be transmitted through skin contact, through the air, and even through secondary sources (touching an allergen, and then touching an allergic person; cooking one dish with an allergen, then using barely washed utensils to cook a “safe” dish).
Over the next few posts, I will give tips about classroom parties, snacks, and how to help your child understand food allergies even when he does not have them. I will also help parents of children with allergies navigate and educate their children to survive school.
Please let me know how I can help you! After all, I have survived almost three decades with a severe dairy allergy!