By Jennifer Roeder of FAAN
Food allergies are often misinterpreted as a stomachache, or even a runny nose and itchy eyes. In fact, they are potentially life-threatening, and there is no cure. It is estimated that about 3 million children in the U.S. have food allergies. The only way to prevent a reaction is to strictly avoid the foods to which they are allergic.
The school setting can present a unique challenge when managing food allergies, since food is sometimes found outside of the lunchroom, such as when used in arts and craft projects, in science projects, or as incentives. That is why students with food allergies need everyone’s help – including yours!
FAAN™ (The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network) is the world leader in food allergy information, programs, and resources regarding food allergy. This year, we are celebrating our 20th anniversary. FAAN was started by Anne Muñoz-Furlong, a mother whose daughter was diagnosed with milk and egg allergy as infant. Frustrated at the lack of information about food allergy available at that time, Anne founded FAAN as a way of providing education and support to other parents who needed help managing food allergy. Today, FAAN has many resources to help manage food allergies, including in the school setting, whether its parents, teachers, school administrators, or school nurses looking for information.
For this post, we went straight to the source and asked moms in the food allergy community for tips on how room moms can help with food allergy management in the classroom. Here is what the moms had to say:
1. Work with the teacher to identify any students in the classroom who have food allergies. Understand the ingredients they must avoid, the symptoms of an allergic reaction, and learn what to do in the event of an allergic emergency. Consider sending notes home with the students who have food allergies, to let their parents/guardians know that you are working in partnership to keep their children safe.
2. Celebrate special events and birthdays with non-food treats such as games or a special storytime. One room mom shared that “the kids do not seem to miss the food when they are having fun with games and other activities.”
3. When food must be used for an activity or provided to students, work with the parents of the children with food allergies to arrange for safe alternatives to be available so that no student is excluded.
4. Work with the teacher to determine who will provide snacks and what snacks are safe. Often the moms of kids with food allergies are willing to provide safe snacks/treats for the entire class. In fact, some classes collect money to put in a fund for the food allergy moms to use to provide the goodies.
The most important thing is to work together with the school staff, the student, and the student’s parents to ensure all students are included in all activities!
Food Allergy Awareness Week is a perfect time to review what your child’s class is doing to help kids with food allergies. Check out all of the resources FAAN has put together and share some with your child’s teacher. Please also visit us on facebook, and follow us on Twitter.
Together, we can make a difference!
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