Food allergies in school—Keeping the classroom safe

Approximately 1 in 13 children have a food allergy—that means that in every classroom, there are roughly 2 food allergic children.[1] Fifteen percent of these students have had an allergic reaction at school.[2] Reactions can range from mild to life threatening which makes reducing the risk of accidental exposure of utmost importance.

We offer several tips on how teachers and other faculty can manage food allergies in the classroom.

  • Keep classrooms food allergen-free: Some classrooms opt to restrict food from the classroom, altogether. Others that allow food for snack time, meals or celebrations may choose to restrict known allergens. Consider alerting parents with a letter or email to tell them what is and isn’t permitted—parents may also appreciate a list of suggested snacks or treats.[3] An “Allergen-Free Classroom” sign posted on the classroom door serves as a good reminder, too.
  • Avoid allergens in classroom activities: It is not uncommon to use items such as noodles, play dough, birdseed or even egg cartons for arts and crafts, counting, science projects and sensory play.[4] However, skin contact with or accidental ingestion of these allergens are a common cause of allergic reactions at school. Keep the classroom safe by avoiding these common culprits in your lessons.[5]
  • Keep celebrations food-free: There are many ways to celebrate birthdays and other holidays without cupcakes, cookies and other food related treats. Consider making birthday boys and girls king or queen for the day—present them with a birthday crown so everyone knows it’s their special day. Opt also for non-food treats for holiday celebrations such as crayons, activity pads or stickers. For older students, consider a no-homework pass to honor birthdays or a holiday lanyard as a holiday gift.[6]
  • Avoid food as rewards: Food used for a classroom reward excludes and even poses danger to food allergic students. Consider awarding accomplishments and milestones with non-food rewards such as a movie day, an extra recess or outdoor class time.[7]
  • Learn the symptoms: Should an unintentional ingestion or allergic reaction occur, it is important to recognize the symptoms so immediate action can be taken. Swollen lips, tongues or eyes; itching or hives; gastrointestinal upset; congestion or trouble swallowing; wheezing, dizziness, fainting or loss of consciousness; and even change in mood or confusion may be signs of an allergic reaction. If you suspect an allergic reaction has occurred, immediately activate the affected student’s emergency plan.[8]

Food allergies in school are serious health conditions that require careful planning, thoughtful classroom management and swift action. Minimize the risk to those affected by following these and other tips. Check out the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for an online tool kit to help schools manage a food allergy in the classroom. Food Allergy Resource & Education (FARE) has several resources on its website, as well.

[1] “Facts and Statistics – Food Allergy Research & Education.” Facts and Statistics – Food Allergy Research & Education. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 June 2016. <https://www.foodallergy.org/facts-and-stats>.

 

[2] “Resources For Schools – Classroom – Food Allergy Research & Education.”Resources For Schools – Classroom – Food Allergy Research & Education. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 June 2016. <http://www.foodallergy.org/resources-for-schools/classroom>.

[3] Ibid

[4] Centers For Disease Control And Prevention (Cdc). Managing Food Allergies in Schools, The Role of School Teachers and Paraeducators (n.d.): n. pag. CDC.gov. Web. 1 June 2016. <http://www.cdc.gov/healthyschools/foodallergies/pdf/teachers_508_tagged.pdf>.

[5] “Resources For Schools – Classroom – Food Allergy Research & Education.”Resources For Schools – Classroom – Food Allergy Research & Education. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 June 2016. <http://www.foodallergy.org/resources-for-schools/classroom>.

[6] Ibid

[7] “Resources For Schools – Classroom – Food Allergy Research & Education.”Resources For Schools – Classroom – Food Allergy Research & Education. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 June 2016. <http://www.foodallergy.org/resources-for-schools/classroom>.

[8] Centers For Disease Control And Prevention (Cdc). Managing Food Allergies in Schools, The Role of School Teachers and Paraeducators (n.d.): n. pag. CDC.gov. Web. 1 June 2016. <http://www.cdc.gov/healthyschools/foodallergies/pdf/teachers_508_tagged.pdf>.

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