Back to School: Food Allergies
Updated: Wednesday, October 30 2013, 05:48 PM EDT
PITTSFIELD – The first week back at school is a big deal for students and parents, especially in families where a child suffers from a food allergy. Families like Amy Tanner’s, her son Donald suffers from a severe peanut allergy. Even the slightest exposure means a trip to the emergency room.
“He has two epi pens that follow him around the school.” Tanner explains. “So when he leaves the classroom and goes to library, lunch, or the gym, an EpiPen follows him at all time.”
Nationally, food allergies are on the rise. According to Food Allergy Research and Education, 1 in 13 children in the United States have a food allergy. That’s about 2 students per classroom.
Right now, the best line of defense is an EpiPen. Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Albany Medical Center, Dr. Melinda Clark says parents and the school should have a plan in place to react to an episode.
“I think the most important thing is to be proactive.” Dr. Clark says. “Talk with staff, the administration, the cafeteria.. The second thing is to make sure you have a ‘food action plan’ or a food allergy management plan. It has to cover what *your* child is allergic to. What medications should be administered and what are indicators.”
In Donald Tanner’s case, his Pittsfield school has a 504 plan set up. It is for severe cases and covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act, legally requiring a school to make accommodations for children with disabilities. 504 plans are for extreme cases only.
Donald’s parents say despite the safety net, it is normal to still be nervous sending your food allergic child off to school.
“Take it seriously.” Donald’s father, DJ says. “There are a lot of situations where they can cross-contaminate toys and things that they share in school. And it can potentially end someone’s life.”