Protecting Kids with Food Allergies
(BPT) – If it seems like life-threatening food allergies are more common than they were when you were a kid, you're not imagining it. The number of children with food allergies increased by nearly 50 percent between 1997 and 2011, according to a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Researchers are working to discover why food allergies are on the rise in developed countries around the world.
In 2011, Congress passed the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act to improve food safety in the United States. This act shifted the focus of food safety from response to prevention. The shift resulted in new guidelines for parents and educators to manage the risks of food allergies and severe allergic reactions.
There might not be a cure for food allergies, but there are some steps you can take to ensure your child is safe at school:
Form a partnership with teachers and school staff.
Communication is key when it comes to managing allergy risks. Introduce yourself to all the adults your child sees every day, from teachers and nurses to bus drivers, cafeteria staff and administrators. There are often misconceptions surrounding food allergies, so take this time to clear those up. Provide specific information about your child's needs and how each staff member can support them each day, as well as in an emergency situation.
Have a collection of go-to safe snacks.
Food allergies can be scary, but don't let food become an object of fear in your family. Allergies create an opportunity to teach your kids about safe eating. Find safe snacks to put in your child's lunchbox or backpack, like Snyder's of Hanover pretzels, which are now made in a peanut-free facility and safe for kids with peanut allergies. Kids with allergies often feel left out during times with class treats, but storing wholesome and tasty options like these in their locker is the perfect solution.
Teach your child to manage their allergies.
Encourage your child to advocate for themselves when it comes to prevention. Find books about food allergies to read with younger children and help them practice with auto-injector trainers. When they're ready, teach them to read food labels, speak up for themselves at school, avoid non-labeled or homemade foods and recognize the symptoms of a reaction.
Have your child wear a medical ID.
You can keep your kids safe when you're around; but when they're at school, camp or even a friend's house, you can't always protect them. Wearing a medical ID helps kids remember exactly what they're allergic to. And if they have a reaction when you're not there, a medical ID lets others know what to do by listing your contact information and instructing to use an auto-injector or call 911.
Have a plan for emergencies.
You can download the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Emergency Care Plan from the Food Allergy Research and Education website. This plan outlines recommended treatment in case of an allergic reaction and has space for specific doctor notes and emergency contact information. It also includes allergens, symptoms and easy-to-follow treatment instructions. Print out several copies of your plan and keep them in an easily accessible place. Let your physician, school staff and other parents know it is available.Follow these steps to ensure your child is as safe as possible from their food allergens. To learn more about food safety, visit foodallergy.org.