Food allergies now affect three million U.S. children and parents, teachers, caregivers and school personnel are among those impacted most. Managing the responsibilities that accompany food allergies must be shared by parents and school personnel, as well as the food-allergic children but the Dallas Food Allergy Center (DFAC) can help.
In an effort to identify and understand these responsibilities, several education groups along with FARE (Food Allergy Research and Education) collaborated to produce a helpful guideline, created to minimize risks and help to provide a safe educational environment for food-allergic students. The DFAC uses these guidelines to assist parents and schools in creating a safe environment for children with food allergies.
- Notify the school of the child’s allergies.
- Work with the school team to develop a plan that accommodates the child’s needs throughout the school including in the classroom, in the cafeteria, in after-care programs, during school-sponsored activities, and on the school bus, as well as a Food Allergy Action Plan.
- Provide written medical documentation, instructions, and medications as directed by a physician, using the Food Allergy Action Plan as a guide. Include a photo of the child on written form.
- Provide properly labeled medications and replace medications after use or upon expiration.
- Educate the child in the self-management of their food allergy including:
- safe and unsafe foods
- strategies for avoiding exposure to unsafe foods
- symptoms of allergic reactions
- how and when to tell an adult they (the child) may be having an allergy-related problem
- how to read food labels (age appropriate)
- Review policies/procedures with the school staff, the child’s physician, and the child (if age appropriate) after a reaction has occurred.
- Provide emergency contact information
- Be knowledgeable about and follow applicable federal laws including ADA, IDEA, Section 504, and FERPA and any state laws or district policies that apply.
- Review the health records submitted by parents and physicians.
- Include food-allergic students in school activities. Students should not be excluded from school activities solely based on their food allergy.
- Identify a core team of, but not limited to, school nurse, teacher, principal, school food service and nutrition manager/director, and counselor (if available) to work with parents and the student (age appropriate) to establish a prevention plan. Changes to the prevention plan to promote food allergy management should be made with core team participation.
- Assure that all staff who interact with the student on a regular basis understands food allergy, can recognize symptoms, knows what to do in an emergency, and works with other school staff to eliminate the use of food allergens in the allergic student’s meals, educational tools, arts and crafts projects, or incentives.
- Practice the Food Allergy Action Plans before an allergic reaction occurs to assure the efficiency/effectiveness of the plans.
- Coordinate with the school nurse to be sure medications are appropriately stored, and be sure that an emergency kit is available that contains a physician’s standing order for epinephrine. In states were regulations permit, medications are kept in an easily accessible secure location central to designated school personnel, not in locked cupboards or drawers.
- Students should be allowed to carry their own epinephrine, if age appropriate, after approval from the student’s physician/clinic, parent and school nurse, and allowed by state or local regulations.
- Designate school personnel who are properly trained to administer medications in accordance with the State Nursing and Good Samaritan Laws governing the administration of emergency medications.
- Be prepared to handle a reaction and ensure that there is a staff member available who is properly trained to administer medications during the school day regardless of time or location.
- Review policies/prevention plan with the core team members, parents/guardians, student (age appropriate), and physician after a reaction has occurred.
- Work with the district transportation administrator to assure that school bus driver training includes symptom awareness and what to do if a reaction occurs.
- Recommend that all buses have communication devices in case of an emergency.
- Enforce a “no eating” policy on school buses with exceptions made only to accommodate special needs under federal or similar laws, or school district policy.
- Discuss appropriate management of food allergy with family.
- Discuss field trips with the family of the food-allergic child to decide appropriate strategies for managing the food allergy.
- Follow federal/state/district laws and regulations regarding sharing medical information about the student.
- Take threats or harassment against an allergic child seriously.
- Should not trade food with others.
- Should not eat anything with unknown ingredients or known to contain any allergen.
- Should be proactive in the care and management of their food allergies and reactions based on their developmental level.
- Should notify an adult immediately if they eat something they believe may contain the food to which they are allergic.
To learn more about how to manage your child’s food allergy, contact the experts at Dallas Food Allergy Center (DFAC). DFAC is one of the few practices in the U.S. actually treating food allergies.