Food allergies in children are increasing, according to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology. While there is no cure, food allergies can be managed through avoidance and prevention—which may not be easy as your child returns to school.
According to the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN), 90 percent of all allergic food reactions are caused by eight common foods: peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, gluten, soy, fish and shell fish. Symptoms commonly include hives, tingling in the mouth, swelling of the tongue and throat, difficulty breathing, abdominal cramps, vomiting or diarrhea, eczema or rash, coughing or wheezing, dizziness and loss of consciousness.
How can you help your child navigate food allergies when he returns to school?
- Talk about it. Tell him to never to trade food from lunches or eat anything with unknown ingredients. Encourage him or her to be vigilant about washing hands and find food-allergy-friendly snacks that can substitute for unsafe foods.
- Have a plan. Download the FAAN’s Food Allergy Action Plan (www.foodallergy.org/files/faap.pdf) and customize it for your child’s needs.
- Find support. Seek out a support group of other parents going through the same situation.
- Volunteer at school. Whenever outside food is involved, it never hurts to volunteer your time and offer to bring allergen-free snacks for the class or group.
- Get involved. Currently there are several bills in legislation that could help expand access to life-saving epinephrine, specifically the School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act. Reach out to local representatives and encourage them to support this bill to make epinephrine mandatory in schools.