Food Allergies at School

Please take a minute to read/watch this CNN piece regarding a controversial issue of protecting a child at school who has a severe peanut allergy.  As well as this ABC article.

Has it gone too far?

I am not writing this post to get into a debate about the right or wrong regarding this specific example in a Florida school.  Rather, I want to know what efforts you and your school (or even your workplace) take to protect your child who has food allergies.  Or, if you have not had to deal with this life-threatening issue personally or in your family, have you had experience with it at school or in the workplace?

I liked how the doctor put the feelings of parents who send their food allergy child off to school.  Everyday dealing with food allergies is like “living in a field of land mines.”  I have never heard it put that way, but it is so very true!  It is a fear and sense of anxiety that is ever present and ever strong.

Here are the experiences that I have encountered at school:

  • My daughter’s preschool class (over 5 years ago) was peanut-free.  Although I wasn’t even dealing with the food allergy issue at school yet, I appreciated this precaution the school took.  I never heard a single complaint from parents.
  • My son’s preschool also had a peanut-free rule.  I was glad for this, but my son has always been anaphylactic to dairy, not peanut (or that we know of).  Parents were assigned to bring in the snack on a rotation system.  I was given permission for my son to bring his own snack every day.  He had other classmates with food allergies as well.  I trained all his teachers and the director (they were also required by law to have professional training on emergency response) on how to respond if my son started to have an allergic reaction, even wheezing, for that matter.
  • When searching for preschools, the first question I asked was how they dealt with food allergies.  If I didn’t like the answer, I crossed it off the list.  Now, preschool is not a mandatory part of eduction, so I was willing to forgo it if I not certain of my son’s safety.  I actually had one preschool director tell me that she had never heard of a “dairy allergy” and it was something that I would have to deal with myself!  I did find a preschool and I really appreciated their special care that they gave him.  We made it through the entire year without incident.
  • Now my son is in kindergarten, but it is only half-day.  I have not yet had to deal with him having a full meal independently of me.  (I’m already anxious over the “land mines” that may or may not be present.)  A few days before kindergarten started, I met with all of his teachers and trained them on administering his emergency meds that are kept in the office.  I informed them on what he could not have.  They keep a special treat for only him when there is a birthday party (He picked it out himself and it is such a treat for him because it’s not something that he gets at home.)  They also play phonogram and math bingo with goldfish crackers.  I sent in an oyster cracker alternative.  The teacher is very good about informing me of upcoming class parties, for which I have dubbed myself the “class baker.”  I have to make alternative treats for my son anyway, so why not just take care of the special treat for the entire class.  I have not heard a single complaint!  I have actually had parents ask me how they can make something that he can have.  It has all been very supportive.  The school is not peanut-free, but there are some classes that have chosen to go peanut-free and they have a peanut-free table at lunch.
  • My son goes for his bi-annual allergy check-up/testing at the end of this week and I am going to ask the doctor if we should be taking more precautions at school than we have.  I have not had the teacher declare a dairy or peanut-free class.
  • By nature I am a people-pleaser.  So I try not to put other people out.  If it ever came to the point that extreme measures had to be taken at school for my son’s safety, I would home school him.  Period!

So how do you deal with this issue? What is your opinion on the best practice for dealing with food allergies at school?

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3 Responses to Food Allergies at School

  1. Kim L says:

    My 6 year old is now in Kindergarten, and I have made it my life goal to make him as safe as possible in a peanut world. Throughout preschool, he went to a peanut free facility. This was not even 100% for him as we had parents, one in particular that comes into mind that chose to ignore the policy and brought peanut butter cookies to a Christmas function. After ingestion (we had no clue they were there and had let him pick his own cookies), my son went into anaphylactic shock. He fought for his life for the next 24 hours and developed severe complications afterwards. My child spent the next 6 months sick and suddenly had asthma. This mother then had the nerve to curse in my face and tell me that if I were a decent parent I would have kept him safe and watched what he ate. The director actually ended up kicking her out of the school for not following policy, but it was ugly until that happened.
    In our local public school, we were told the safest place for him was not in the school. I started working to improve the situation prior to the start of Kindergarten and worked hand in hand with the district to create guidelines that were district-wide as they had nothing to protect any allergy kid.
    The school works well with me. Right now we are updating as we go, and we have specific guidelines that the school must follow for him as we set up the guidelines to allow for the specific child’s needs. But the new fear is not allowing him to carry his epipen. The doctor’s currently sign that has to have that on him at all times and agrees that needs to happen, but they said they will no longer sign the form because it holds them liable should another child get a hold of the medication and administer it to someone that shouldn’t be exposed to it. The district has a spare in a locked box in the clinic. Problem we have is that the locked box is in the clinic in the back of the office. Should a situation occur on the playground, someone has to go through a locked door back into the school to the office back to the clinic and then into another locked box to get access to this medication. We need it faster. So, that is our current battle, but we are working with the district on it at this time to make it possible to keep that epipen on him as it currently is. It’s a never ending battle to keep our child safe, but it is necessary.

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