Roughly 1 in 25 school-aged children are affected by food allergies. With an overwhelmingly high number of kids experiencing allergic reactions at school, parents have one more thing to worry about while their kids are away for the day.
Find out how to be proactive about food allergies during back to school time and what alternatives you can buy for worry-free snacking.
Food allergies can be serious
The level in which a child reacts to a food he is allergic to can vary, but even the most mild of reactions is uncomfortable for a child and stressful for a parent. Food allergies are a common trigger of anaphylaxis, a severe and potentially fatal systemic reaction, and according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, 16 – 18 percent of allergic reactions occur at school.
The AAP’s report also guides pediatricians through diagnosing and documenting potential life-threatening food allergies. Once a child has been diagnosed, parents and children are then guided on how to properly use a self-injectable epinephrine (EpiPen).
The American Academy of Pediatrics encourages pediatricians and caregivers to develop a written plan to reduce the risks while at school and to implement emergency treatment if a reaction should occur while at school.
Schools and food allergies
Monica Rader is an elementary school teacher in San Diego. According to Monica, each parent handles it differently depending on the severity of the allergy, but all parents at her school schedule conferences with the teachers at the beginning of the school year to provide the school with all the necessary information and to be as proactive as possible.
“Each child with a severe allergy has an action plan that the parents fill out…each child has two pencil box type containers with the EpiPen, or whatever medication is needed, along with the action plan papers,” says Rader. “One of the boxes stays in the office, the other is in the classroom. The teachers all watch DVDs about allergic reactions, and a physician gives the teachers a demonstration on how to use the EpiPen and goes over the different types of reactions.”
Monitoring the food allergy at school
Get involved with the class. If your time allows, you can get involved in your child’s classroom. Between your child’s knowledge and your monitoring, you can get a good feel for how much advocating and monitoring you will need to implement throughout the school year.
Put precautionary and emergency plans in place. Form a plan with the principal and your child’s teachers to ban any foods that contain an allergy — especially during classroom events and parties. “In my son’s preschool class, a child had a severe strawberry allergy. The teachers put a large sign on the door to the classroom and included the allergy in every notice home,” said Christine Baldwin. “Strawberries were banned at class celebrations just to be on the safe side.”
Keep a copy of your emergency plan in the classroom and in the office. If your child has a severe food allergy, keep a copy of your plan and duplicates of medications both in the child’s classroom and in the main office or nurses office. If a child experiences an allergic reaction in class, the nurses office might be too far away for the quick action required.
School snack options for kids with food allergies
- GoGo squeeZ are gluten-free, nut-free and dairy-free individually packaged squeezable applesauce packs.
- Skeeter Snacks are nut-free snacks for kids with any or all nut allergies.
- The Plum Organics Yo’Drops are gluten-free, nut-free, contain no high fructose corn syrup and are free of artificial flavors.
- Stretch Island Fruit Co. fruit leathers are a perfect gluten-free, dairy-free and natural alternative to other fruit snacks.
- The Kitchen Table Bakers aged Parmesan Mini Crisps are wheat, gluten, sugar and trans-fat free, making them a great snack for kids.
- The Crispy Green natural dried fruit packs contain nothing but real fruit — and that’s it.
- Made with a blend of sweet potatoes, carrots and navy beans, Snikiddy Eat Your Vegetables snacks contain a full serving of vegetables in every ounce (approximately 13 chips). Plus, they are cholesterol free, gluten and wheat free.