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Food Allergy Basics. An informational presentation for educators and support staff. Food Allergies. Food allergies can be life-threatening It’s important to understand the precautions to take to keep students as safe as possible The biggest risk to these students is accidental exposure

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Food allergy basics

Food Allergy Basics

An informational presentation for educators and support staff

Food allergies
Food Allergies

  • Food allergies can be life-threatening

  • It’s important to understand the precautions to take to keep students as safe as possible

  • The biggest risk to these students is accidental exposure

  • We need to work together as a team to minimize risks and provide a safe environment

Food allergy basics1
Food Allergy Basics

  • The role of the immune system is to protect the body from germs and disease

  • A food allergy is an abnormal response by the immune system to a food protein

  • When the food is eaten, the immune system thinks the food is harmful and releases histamine and other chemicals to “attack” the enemy


  • Exposure is anytime a student ingests (eats) or touches the allergen

  • In some cases airborne food protein can be enough to cause a reaction in nut allergies:

    • Food prepared in containers or with utensils that have previously been used with nut products can cause a reaction

Food allergy basics2
Food Allergy Basics

  • There is no cure for food allergy

  • Complete and strict avoidance is the only way to prevent a reaction

  • Eight foods cause 90% of the allergic reactions in the United States:

    • Milk Peanuts

    • Eggs Tree Nuts

    • Wheat Fish

    • Soy Shellfish

Food allergy facts
Food Allergy Facts

  • 4% of US population or 12 million

  • Americans (1 in 25) have a food allergy

  • Children are the largest group affected

    • 4 to 6% of children have a food allergy

    • Growing Problem…Peanut allergy in children doubled in 5 yrs (1997-2002)

Symptoms following exposure to allergen
Symptoms Following Exposure to Allergen:

Localized Reaction:

  • Hives

  • Itching

  • Watery eyes

  • Runny nose

  • Swelling of the tongue


  • A serious allergic reaction that is rapid in onset and may cause death

  • Causes of anaphylaxis include foods, insect sting, latex, and medications

  • Each year in the U.S. anaphylaxis to food causes over 30,000 emergency room visits;150-200 deaths

  • Individuals with food allergy plus asthma areat greatest risk for a life-threatening reaction

Symptoms following exposure to allergen1
Symptoms Following Exposure to Allergen

Generalized reaction:

  • Vomiting

  • “My mouth feels hot”

  • Coughing, wheezing

  • Swelling of any part of the body

  • Tightening of the throat

  • Dizziness

  • Sense of doom

  • Loss of consciousness

Reaction to exposure
Reaction to Exposure

  • Reactions can be unpredictable, so it’s important to always be prepared!

  • A child can have a very severe allergic reaction, even if previous reactions have been mild.

Managing food allergies day to day
Managing Food Allergies Day-to-Day

  • Keep the classroom as allergen-free as possible (remove allergens - or the child - immediately if allergen is present)

  • Nut Allergies:

    Cafeteria accommodations should be made:

    • Establish a “peanut-free” table near a window or door

    • Do not allow children to use the table or chair at other lunch periods

    • Wash tables with separate cloth


  • Two studies have now shown that up to 25% of reactions to peanut allergy in the school setting are first time reactions

  • It is important that all schools have a plan for recognizing and treating these potentially life threatening allergic emergencies

  • School staff should all be aware of the symptoms of an allergic reaction!

Managing food allergies day to day1
Managing Food Allergies Day-to-Day

  • Totally avoid food allergens

  • Wise food choices through vigilant label reading, asking questions

  • Careful food preparation and cleanup

  • Be prepared in case of a reaction

Vigilant label reading
Vigilant Label Reading

  • Read every label every time

    • Formulations can change without warning

  • Don’t rely on “safe lists”

  • Allergens can be in non-food items

  • Soaps, shampoos, skin products, medications, pet foods

Careful food preparation
Careful Food Preparation

  • Wash hands, cooking utensils, and food preparation surfaces to avoid reactions from trace amounts of proteins left behind.

    • Liquid soap, bar soap, or commercial wipes for hands not antibacterial gel sanitizers

    • Dishwashing detergent and hot water for cooking utensils and cutting boards

    • Common household cleaners for counters,tables, and other surfaces

Be prepared for an allergic reaction
Be Prepared for an Allergic Reaction

  • Accidents are never planned

  • Keys to being prepared:

    • Medications must be immediately available at all times

    • Knowing how to recognize symptoms

      and administer medications quickly

    • A written Food Allergy Action Plan

Responding to a reaction
Responding to a Reaction

  • Activate the Food Allergy Action Plan Immediately!

  • Recognize the symptoms

  • React quickly

  • Review what caused the reaction and how well the emergency plan worked

Successful allergy management
Successful Allergy Management

  • Understand how to determine where allergens are found

  • Keep the environment as safe for the student as possible

  • Know your student and those students you supervise

  • Be prepared to follow your student’s Emergency Care Plan

  • Plan field trips carefully

Managing food allergies in schools
Managing Food Allergies in Schools

  • Affects about 2 million school-age children

  • Up to 25% of peanut/tree nut reactions in schools are first-time reactions

  • Most reactions in schools occur from food in the classroom used for projects or celebrations

Managing food allergies in schools1
Managing Food Allergies in Schools

  • Once a reaction begins, there is no way to know how severe it will become

  • Take all food allergy-induced allergic reactions seriously

  • Every school should have a plan for

    managing food allergies

The food allergy plan
The Food Allergy Plan

  • The plan to manage a student’s food allergies should take into account:

  • unique needs of the child

  • school environment (size, staff, etc.)

  • goal of equal participation in all school related activities

The food allergy plan1
The Food Allergy Plan

Developing the plan is a team effort involving:

  • school staff

  • child’s family (parents/guardians)

  • child’s physician

  • the child who has allergies, as age appropriate

School s responsibility
School’s Responsibility

  • Create an environment where children,including those with food allergies, will be safe

    • Employ prevention and avoidance

    • Strategies

    • Address teasing

    • Be prepared to handle an allergic


Family s responsibility
Family’s Responsibility

  • Provide written medical documentation

  • Work with the school to develop a plan

  • Provide properly labeled medications and replace after use or when expired

  • Keep emergency contact information up-to-date

  • Teach the child age-appropriate self-management skills

Stragies to minimize risk of reaction
Stragies to Minimize Risk of Reaction

  • Clean hands before and after eating or handling food

  • Plan for safe parties/celebrations

  • Avoid using foods in classroom art/craft projects or as incentives

  • Prohibit food trading and sharing


  • All students have the legal right to have their health information treated with confidentiality

  • All students deserve respect

    • Never refer to a student as “the peanut kid” or other nicknames

    • Handle things with quiet professionalism

  • Understand parental anxiety

  • Face your own anxiety and then:

    Relax and enjoy all of these students!

  • Peanut tree nut restricted educational zones
    Peanut / Tree Nut Restricted Educational Zones

    • To help ensure the safety of students with life-threatening peanut and tree-nut allergies, WACS will have Peanut and Tree Nut Restricted Educational Areas in the 2008-2009 School Year. This policy is governed action of the Board of Education.

    Peanut tree nut restricted area

    Peanut/Tree Nut Restricted Area

    Designated Allergen Restricted Educational Area

    Governed by Board of Education Policy


    • Please contact one of the school nurses if you have concerns or questions about how to handle an allergic reaction

    • Please consult your building principal with education concerns


    • Information for this presentation was obtained from:

      • The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network

      • New York Statewide School Health Services Center

      • Thank you for your time and attention!