A parent of a food allergic child doesn’t have the same “back to school” jitters that the other parents do. Sure…they worry that their child will make friends easily, get a nice teacher, etc. But, they also worry that they will eat the wrong thing and stop breathing, be bullied because of their food allergy, etc.
In many parts of the world, it is back to school time. So, we thought we would take a moment and consider how food allergies and schools interact.
“Education, communication, and cooperation are the keys to managing food allergies at school.”
Food Allergy Checklist
The Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) organization is a leading authority on food allergies. They have provided online resources for parents, teachers, nurses, and administrators. FARE gives information ranging from CDC guidelines to facts about bullying. FARE believes that, “Education, communication, and cooperation are the keys to managing food allergies at school.”
So, what should you watch for? First, let’s identify the top eight foods that cause the majority of food allergic reactions. They are:
- Tree Nuts
If you or someone you know is allergic to these foods (or any other food not listed), they should avoid that food. This seems like an obvious statement – doesn’t it? But, this can be a lot harder than it seems. Cross-contamination of these foods can cause a reaction as well. So, while a cookie may not contain peanut butter, it may have been baked using the same equipment as peanut butter cookies (cross-contamination). And just think of all of the foods that contain milk and egg!
“Every 3 minutes, a food allergy reaction sends someone to the emergency department…”
Symptoms of a Food Allergy
Symptoms of a food allergic reaction can range from sneezing to loss of consciousness. FARE lists mild and severe symptoms. It is important to remember that simply because a person has a mild reaction once does not mean that they cannot ever have a severe reaction. That is why the food should be avoided. The reaction every time the allergen is introduced can vary. According to FARE, “Every 3 minutes, a food allergy reaction sends someone to the emergency department…”
What Options Do I Have With Food Allergies and School?
OK…so we all loved the old PB&J as kids – right? But, that can be very harmful to many kids these days. We can’t take the approach of, “It’s not my problem.” That doesn’t work. Foods are often shared, they get on hands (which get on other shared items such as door knobs, crayons, etc.), and food is a social issue. What do we mean by that? Well, when was the last time you gathered with your friends/coworkers and didn’t have something to munch on? We as a society tend to involve food in our social lives. We don’t want our children to feel excluded because of something that they simply can’t help. So, let’s work together. After all, it really isn’t very difficult when you get creative.
Many schools won’t allow peanut butter anymore. So, think about your kid’s lunches…what else can you do? Have fun with lunch. Tara O’Brady of Seven Spoons lists 15 nut free lunches on Parenting.com. We warn you…some of these are going to have your mouth watering. Look for those lunches that are fun to eat. Your kids will love those. For example, we love the roll ups. Roll anything into a tortilla and you have an instant fun lunch. You can make a wrap out of ham and cheese, cream cheese and jelly, a fruit wrap, and the list goes on and on.
Lisa Leake on 100 Days of Real Food gives some wonderful, healthy, nut-free options as well. Notice these lunchboxes are not lacking in colors. There are many fruits and vegetables that you child will actually eat! You can pack flavorful goodies in a pita. Like a wrap…this makes it even more fun to eat.
What About School Parties?
We all love to have a great party! Just be mindful of those kids that have food allergies (or other considerations as well – diabetes, for example). There are many medical conditions that may make a child feel excluded or self-conscious and there are a lot of ways to enjoy a party and have a lot of fun while including everyone. Food isn’t always necessary and many other non-edible “treats” can be given.
Caring For Someone With Food Allergies In School
Your child’s school should always be aware of any known medical conditions including allergies. A health plan or response to an allergic reaction plan should be filed by your child’s doctor with the school nurse. If necessary, the school should have your child’s epinephrine and rescue antihistamine. If your child has a food allergy, he/she (or someone with them depending on their age) should always have their epinephrine (this includes field trips, etc).
We hope these tips on dealing with food allergies and back to school time have helped. It can be very scary for parents of food allergic kids, but with some creative thinking we can all make it safe for every child to learn.
photo credit: Very cool Superman lunchbox via photopin (license)