Last week, I gave my annual presentation on food allergies to the teachers at my son’s junior high and to the teachers at his former elementary school. I do this every year, so that all of the teachers are informed and prepared should any child at our schools have an allergic reaction to foods.
I start by telling the teachers how prevalent food allergies are now (the latest studies show 1 out of 13 children has a food allergy). I warn them that not all parents have informed the school of food allergies, but that our school’s food policies and the care and concern of our teachers have managed to keep even those children safe over the years.
Next I explain how serious they are, and I tell them how true food allergies are very different from pollen allergies or from lactose intollerance. Then I talk about common allergens, how to tell if a child is having a reaction, what to do if a child has a reaction, and how to prevent reactions in their classroom.
Finally I hand out EpiPen trainers and let them practice on themselves (and usually each other!).
Because of this training every year, our teachers have a level of awareness that lets me breathe easier. They may not be perfect (who is?), but they become advocates for safety and partners in keeping our food-allergic students healthy.
I give the teachers a handout with the highlights. The presentation generally takes about 20-25 minutes, depending on how many questions they ask. I think it really helps.
Many of you may also be in the same situation, trying to figure out how to educate your children’s teachers. I thought I’d post the handout I use – you can copy and adapt it to your own needs and give it to your teachers. Be sure you add your phone number and email address so they can call you if they have questions. Hope it helps!
One out of every 13 kids has a severe food allergy. Not everyone has informed the school.
Our school’s safe practices help keep them safe anyway.
Food allergies are very different from pollen allergies and lactose intolerance because:
- They can cause life-threatening anaphylaxis reactions in minutes
- Even the smallest exposure – or just skin contact -- can be deadly
- Tree Nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, pistachios, pine nuts, etc.)
Common Symptoms of a Food Reaction
- Tingling sensation, itching, or metallic taste in the mouth
- Sensation of warmth
- Difficulty breathing and wheezing (asthma symptoms)
- Swelling of the mouth and throat
- Drop in blood pressure
- Passing out
What to Do If a Reaction Occurs
- Call 911.
- Give medications if you know how. Usually antihistamine (Benadryl) first, then EpiPen if the child’s condition worsens. But ask parents for an action plan – some kids need EpiPens immediately because of the severity of their reactions.
- Call the parent.
- Take the child to the emergency room or doctor. EpiPens only last 10-20 minutes.
- Keep a close eye on the child for at least 24 hours. Secondary reactions can be just as severe.
How to Prevent Reactions
- Remind students to wash hands after lunch. Sanitizer gel does NOT kill allergens.
- Remind students that all food and milk stays in the lunchroom. NOT ON PLAYGROUND OR IN CLASSROOMS!
- Keep allergic kids’ lunch boxes separate from others, so that food doesn’t spill or smear.
- Avoid allergen foods in classrooms – they stay on desks and carpets for a long time.
- Check your hand lotion and craft supplies for allergens.
- Be strict about no-treats policy. Easy to use non-edible rewards instead.
(Free 1-hour online course for educators on creating a food-allergy-smart school environment.)