As Team Moms are planning snacks, please take an inventory of any food allergies that your team might have so that you can plan snacks that are inclusive to the entire team and do not provide a health risk.
Food allergies continue to rise – especially among children – and are a safety and public health concern across the United States. School staff continue to face challenges each school year due to the increasing number of students with food allergies entering school. Parents continue to struggle as they prepare to send their child off to school, whether it’s a daycare center; private, or public school; church program; extracurricular activities, or college.
Reports on food allergies, prevalence, and allergic reactions in the school setting confirm the need for further education, awareness, and teamwork among school staff and parents. A combined effort among school staff, parents, and others who care for food-allergic students helps to create a more safe, healthy, and inclusive school environment for the student.
It’s important to note that in caring for food-allergic students, school personnel, family members, and the student (depending on his or her age) all have a responsibility and play a key role in the daily management and safety of the student. Working together, a thorough management plan can be developed that will help to support the efforts of all those involved in caring for students with life-threatening food allergies.
As many as 8 million Americans, or 2.5% of the US population, have food allergies. The foods that most commonly cause a life-threatening allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) include peanuts (the main cause of allergies in children), tree nuts (such as walnuts, pecans and cashews), shellfish (such as shrimp and lobster — the main cause of anaphylaxis in adults), fish, cow’s milk, eggs and soy.
The severity of a food-triggered life-threatening allergic reaction depends on a number of factors — the amount eaten, the food form (cooked, raw or processed) and the co-ingestion of other foods. Other variables include the person’s age, the sensitivity at the time of ingestion (eg, children are less likely to suffer a severe allergic reaction to milk and eggs as they get older), how fast the food is absorbed by the body and whether the person has another condition, such as severe or uncontrolled asthma.
If you or your child has a food allergy, you’ll need to be careful to avoid triggers. This means careful menu planning and reading food labels for alternative ingredient names to make sure you are aware of any “hidden” triggers.
It may be difficult to avoid hidden triggers, especially in foods you have not prepared. In particular, children with allergies may inadvertently eat a trigger food at school. In this case, it’s important that the child and his/her family, caregivers and teachers know how to recognize the signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis and know what to do in the event of a life-threatening allergic reaction: inject the health care professional-prescribed EpiPen® (epinephrine) or EpiPen Jr® (epinephrine) Auto-Injector immediately and seek emergency medical attention.
More information on food allergies in the school setting for both school personnel and for parents, including downloadable checklists, can be accessed through the links below or by visiting FAACT’s Education Resource Center.