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 • We need to work together as a team to minimize risks and provide a safe environment
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 • 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 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 • 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: Localized Reaction: • Hives • Itching • Watery eyes • Runny nose • Swelling of the tongue
Anaphylaxis • 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 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 • 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 • 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
Studies • 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-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 • 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 • 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 • 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 • 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 • 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 • 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 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 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 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 • 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 reaction
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 • 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
Confidentiality • 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 • 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 Designated Allergen Restricted Educational Area Governed by Board of Education Policy
Questions? • 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
Sources • 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!