An estimated 4% to 6% of U.S. children of children under age 18 have food allergies. Food allergies affect 1 in every 13 children and nearly 40% of children with food allergies have a history of a severe reaction. Severe allergic reactions to food can cause anaphylaxis and can be life-threatening. Food allergies are a particular concern in the school environment. Studies show that 16%–18% of children with food allergies have had allergic reactions to accidental ingestion of food allergens while in school.
Elementary Schools have many children with food allergies. A food allergy is an abnormal response to a food triggered by the immune system. The body's immune system, which is designed to protect us from harmful substances, mistakenly believes that harmless substances are in fact poison to the body. So, in an attempt to "protect" itself, the body produces antibodies to fight off the offending food. These same antibodies can trigger: swelling of the tongue and throat, difficulty breathing, hives, vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, drop in blood pressure, loss in consciousness, death.
Common Food Allergens
Eight types of foods account for 90% of all food-allergy reactions: cow’s milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts (such as walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, almonds, cashews, pistachios, and macadamia nuts), fish, shellfish, soybeans, and wheat.
Symptoms of Food Allergy
Symptoms of an allergic reaction to food can range from mild to sudden and severe and commonly include one or more of the following:
- Tingling in the mouth
- Swelling in the tongue and throat
- Difficulty breathing
- Abdominal cramps
- Vomiting or diarrhea
- Eczema or rash
- Coughing or wheezing
- Loss of consciousness
Anaphylaxis is a sudden, severe allergic reaction that involves various areas of the body simultaneously or causes difficulty breathing and swelling of the throat and tongue. Anaphylaxis can result in death.
Treatment and Prevention of Food Allergies
Some types of mild food allergies are treatable with an antihistamine or bronchodilator. Severe, or anaphylactic reactions, require epinephrine. At present, there is no cure for food allergies. The best method for managing food allergies is prevention by way of strict avoidance of any food that triggers a reaction.
Students and families that do not suffer from food allergies can also help out. There is to be no "food sharing" at snack or lunch time. If you have told the Health Office that your child has a severe food allergy, you will be asked to have a Snack/Party Box in the classroom so that your child may safely participate in classroom celebrations. Any foods that are given out in their classroom will be sent to the Health Office where they may be picked up at 3 pm by the child’s parent for evaluation. They will not be sent home with your child.
These procedures are followed with the safety and well-being of your child in mind. If you have any questions, please speak with Jaime Caruso, RN, CSN
Lyncrest-201.794.5555 X3624 (a.m.)
Westmoreland-201.794.5490 x5716 (p.m)