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Food allergy education, advocacy, and support

How to be an “allergy-smart” school

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 Back-to-School season is here!  For educators, creating a food-allergy safe environment requires the use of C A R E

 
C – Comprehend food allergies

 
A – Avoid the allergen

 
R – Recognize symptoms of an allergic reaction

 
E – Enact emergency care immediately!!

Food allergies are serious and even a minuscule amount of the offending food can cause a life-threatening reaction.  While 90% of food-related allergic reactions occur from 8 common foods (peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, soy, milk, shellfish, fish, and wheat), any food can cause an anaphylactic reaction.  There is currently no cure for food allergies.  Management includes strict avoidance of the allergens and knowing how to treat an accidental exposure.

As teachers, faculty, and staff, you are absolutely essential to keeping food allergic students safe and to respond quickly to an accidental exposure.

  • Prevention is key…

Take steps to ensure food allergic children’s safety, i.e. hand washing or wiping with commercial wipes for the food allergic child before eating (and you having clean hands when helping them with their food and drink) and after snack time for the entire class in the younger grades.  Also, NO food sharing.

  • Communicate…

For the younger students especially, communicate with the parents any activity ahead of time that will involve food products to check for safety or if an alternative needs to be provided.

  • Resist…

NEVER offer food to a food-allergic child (in the form of celebration, rewards, experiments) without knowing for certain it is safe for them.  The younger ones may assume it is.

  • Advocate with policy…

Some schools chose to implement a peanut/tree nut free policy. This reduces the risk that peanuts and tree nuts create, since only a tiny amount of nut residue on a desk, pencil, or doorknob could induce a severe allergic reaction.  Even if you have this policy, don’t let your guard down!

  • Know which students have food allergies…

Please also understand how to recognize an allergic reaction, take the students’ complaints seriously if they are feeling unwell, and act promptly!

SYMPTOMS

  • Symptoms can include any of the following:
    • Mouth:  Itching or tingling of the lips, tongue or mouth, “funny feeling” of the mouth
    • Skin:  Hives, itchy rash, swelling
    • Gut:  Nausea, belly pain, vomiting, diarrhea
    • Throat:  Tightness, hoarseness, hacking cough
    • Lungs:  Shortness of breath, repetitive coughing, wheezing
    • Heart:  Fainting, pale, blueness, low blood pressure, weak pulse
  • If symptoms are minor itching and/or mild hives, Benadryl can be given first.
  • If any one symptom is severe or two body systems are involved, even if the symptoms appear mild, promptly treat with epinephrine and follow the student’s emergency action plan!
  • Never leave the student alone or send to the office alone during a suspected reaction.

TREATMENT

 During a suspected severe allergic reaction, epinephrine is the only treatment and when given promptly is life saving!!

Giving epinephrine is safe!  You will never harm a food allergic child by using it even if it was not necessary, but delaying treatment can be fatal.  Become familiar with the use of epinephrine auto injectors, Epi-pen and Auvi-Q, using training devices.