The Allergy-Safe School

Peanuts, dairy, gluten, soy, eggs, sulfites...many foods contain potential allergenic products. And up to 8 percent of kids have life-threatening food allergies, and those limitations can become problematic as kids enter school or change schools. But parents and administrators can keep all kids safe and happy as they deal with allergies - it just takes a little communication and understanding. The policies that schools have in place to accommodate kids with food allergies can range from nothing at all to "nut-free zones," where no nuts or products that contain nuts are allowed. Why so stringent? It may be frustrating for a parent whose child doesn't have food allergies, but coming into contact with even nut dust - like that released and breathed in when a peanut shell is broken - can cause a highly allergic child to go into anaphylactic shock. Other no-no foods might include those meant to be shared with the entire class, like cupcakes for a birthday. Many cake mixes are processed in proximity to nuts or contain other allergens, so they're off-limits to allergenic kids.

It's disappointing, to say the least, when the entire class gets a treat and the child who's allergic has to sit out. Because the implications are so serious, some kids need to either carry or store epi-pens, which counteract the effects of an allergic reaction, at school. If this is the case, then teachers, classroom helpers, administrators and cafeteria personnel need to know where the pens are stored, just in case there is a reaction. There are no universal, official laws on the books to protect children with allergies, as there are for children with disabilities, but some allergenic kids may have a 504 plan in place, as a child with disabilities might. Work with your school system if your child suffers from food allergies to ensure that she participates in all class activities safely.