Managing Food Allergies at John H. Duval Jr. Elementary School
Food allergies among children are gaining more and more attention and for good reason. According to the Food Allergy Network, it is estimated that approximately 8 % of all children suffer from food allergies. About 90 % of all food allergies in children are caused by peanuts, milk, wheat, eggs, soy, almonds, pecans, walnuts, fish and shellfish. Peanuts are responsible for 50 % of the total food allergies that children have and produce the most severe reactions. Highly allergic individuals can experience a reaction to even trace amounts of the known food allergen. Symptoms can occur just after coming in contact or ingesting the food. In a severe reaction, the body’s immune system responds abnormally to the protein in a particular food. This is known as anaphylactic shock. This type of response is a life threatening condition that requires immediate emergency medical intervention.
In an effort to enhance and protect the physical well being of all students, the Whitman Hanson Regional School District has addressed this food allergy issue in several ways. We have instituted peanut free and nut free classrooms and provided for an area in school cafeterias where peanuts and peanut products are not eaten. The school nurse is actively involved in the writing of accommodation and emergency plans to meet the needs of a student with a life threatening food allergy. Training sessions are held for staff annually to educate them regarding the signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction and in the administration of epinephrine, in the form of an epi-pen auto injector, the emergency drug used to treat allergic reactions short term.
Paramount to this initiative however, is open communication between parents of the food allergic child and the schools. Upon registering a child, parents are urged to discuss the child’s special needs with the school nurse so that appropriate and reasonable accommodations can be made and action plans can be developed if needed.
The parent of the food allergic child is well aware of the precautions that need to be taken to avoid contact with the specific food to which their child is allergic; however, all members of the school community are urged to co-operate to ensure the safety of all students. Since peanuts and peanut products i.e. peanut butter, are so popular, this particular food allergy poses the greatest challenge in the school setting. Parents of children in a self contained classroom, such as in elementary schools, are advised of the presence of a classmate who has the peanut allergy and their co-operation is sought to adhere to the following district guidelines:
- As a district wide policy and in conjunction with the new state guidelines, food items will no longer be brought in for birthdays or class parties.
- Any food eaten in a Peanut Free or Nut Free classroom, such as snacks, cannot have peanut or nut products in them. Food labels must be read carefully as peanut and nut products are used in a variety of foods, candy and pastries.
- There will be a no sharing or trading of food policy for any child in the school setting.
It is important to realize that not all food allergies are life threatening and that simple avoidance of a particular food is all that may be required in controlling a child’s allergy to it. But in the case of the child who has a life threatening food allergy, we believe these measures must be followed to protect the child’s well being in the school setting. Your support and appreciation are greatly appreciated as we strive to keep our school healthy and safe!!