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What is an allergic reaction? An allergic reaction is an abnormal immune response to a food protein, where the body begins to attack itself. You may see symptoms ranging from hives, stomach aches, vomiting, swelling of the mouth/face/tongue, difficulty breathing. Allergic reactions may vary in severity (mild, moderate, severe) from person to person and from reaction to reaction within the same person. Until a reaction occurs, we don’t know how severe the reaction will be and the reaction can proceed from a mild reaction to a severe life-threatening reaction within minutes of exposure.
What is anaphylaxis? Anaphylaxis is a serious, life-threatening reaction which can affect several body systems and may compromise a child’s breathing and circulation. Ingestion of food allergens is the most common cause of anaphylaxis. Eight foods account for 90% of allergic reactions: peanut, tree nut, wheat, soy, eggs, milk, fish, and shellfish. Environmental allergens such as pollens, dust, grass as well as inhaled or “airborne” allergens rarely cause anaphylaxis (they cause symptoms such as red, itchy, watery eyes; sneezing, etc.). An Epi Pen is a life- saving medication for any child experiencing anaphylaxis and needs to be readily accessible.
How common are food allergies? Food allergies affect approximately 1 in 13 children. The number of people diagnosed with food allergies has been on the rise with no clear understanding as to why this is occurring. Peanut and tree nut allergies tend to be life-long allergies and may even worsen over time. Peanut/tree nut allergies are most associated with severe allergic reactions.
Important Information for Parents of Elementary-Aged Students
The prevalence of chronic medical conditions including diabetes, obesity and life threatening food allergies has increased steadily over the last 10 years. Food allergies affect approximately 1 in 13 children, roughly 2 children in each classroom. Eight foods account for 90% of all allergic reactions: peanut, tree nut, wheat, soy, egg, milk, fish, and shellfish. Peanut and tree nut allergies tend to be life-long, may worsen over time, and often produce some of the most severe reactions. Avoidance of food allergens is the only way to prevent an allergic reaction.
You will notice that some of our classrooms are designated as allergen restricted. We ask that all members of the school community work collaboratively to safeguard children with life-threatening food allergies. Protocols exist in the allergen restricted classrooms and are designed to facilitate safe and inclusive participation for all students. Expectations for these classrooms include washing hands before and after eating, no food sharing or trading, no home baked goods or bulk items due to the potential of unknown ingredients and/or cross contaminated ingredients, and signage posted outside the classroom as a reminder that allergens are prohibited. Additionally, in these classrooms, snacks and celebrations must consist of one of the following options: 1) fresh fruits or vegetables, 2) pre-packaged food items containing an ingredient label, 3) non-edibles (stickers, pencils, erasers, coloring books), 4) non-food activities (games, book reading, person of the day, etc.). Please consult with your child’s teacher for more information regarding the celebratory practices for his/her classroom.
Product & Ingredient Labeling Information
Should your child be enrolled in an allergen restricted classroom, please carefully look at product and ingredient labels and do not send in items for snacks or celebrations that state any of the following:
- "Contains peanuts, tree nuts"
- "May contain peanuts, tree nuts"
- "Manufactured in a facility...with peanuts, tree nuts"
- "Manufactured on shared equipment...with peanuts, tree nuts"
The above statements may be found throughout the ingredient list or at the end of the ingredient list as a separate statement. Manufacturers also list a contact number that you can call to verify the safety of a product. Additionally, the school nurse is a valuable resource and may assist you in your selection of safe food items and/or verify the safety of a food product. All snacks, including snacks off the safe snack list, must be prepackaged and contain an ingredient label. No bulk items or home baked goods can be sent in to the classroom due to the potential for cross contaminated ingredients.
Middle School “Be a Pal” Program
The Be a PAL: Protect A Life™ From Food Allergies education program can help children learn how to be a good friend to kids with food allergies. We ask that you take this opportunity to review with your child the BE A PAL guidelines to help safeguard students with life-threatening allergies:
- Never take food allergies lightly;
- Never share food;
- Wash hands after eating;
- Help friends avoid foods that they are allergic to;
- Get help immediately when a friend becomes ill.
BE A PAL HAND-OUT (PDF)