Food allergies: back-to-school concerns
It’s common nowadays for a classroom to be a nut-free zone, and nearly every school cafeteria is either nut-free or has a nut-free table.
There are now 5.9 million kids in the U.S. living with a food allergy, according to Food Allergy Research & Education. To put that in perspective, one in every 13 kids in the U.S. has a food allergy, which equals to about two kids in every classroom.
Most school officials are attuned to the increase in food allergies and are willing to make accommodations to keep children safe. However, it’s still critical for you to spend time preparing your child to be responsible for their own safety at school.
- If your child has food allergies, explain that they are not alone. Some people are allergic to dogs, some are allergic to grass and some are allergic to certain types of food. Let your child know that food allergies can be more severe, so it’s important that they have a team of people, including family, friends and school employees, working together to keep them safe.
- Review with your child what they are allergic to and which foods to avoid. Also, review what can happen if your child eats something they are allergic to so they can recognize the symptoms immediately and seek help.
- Remind your child to never share food with anyone else from class, unless it has been pre-approved by you, including school-prepared lunches. Many school officials say their lunches are nut-free, but unless you have met with the cafeteria staff and toured the kitchen prep area, it’s safer to steer clear. Packing your child’s lunch and including some fun twists, such as flower-shaped sandwiches (using cookie cutters) or treats, can help your child enjoy a special lunch and not feel excluded.
- Make hand washing before and after meals a habit. This is important in case your child has unknowingly come into contact with any allergens that could be transferred to their food and consumed while eating.
By partnering with your child’s school and regularly reminding your child to be their own advocate, your child will have a safe experience at school.