The Need for Food Allergy Safety Training in Schools, Camps, Daycare Facilities, or Any Place that Handles Children
There is a danger to our children hiding in plain sight and it is growing stronger every day. Food allergies are becoming more and more prevalent. Just watch the local news, surf the net, or flip through print media and you will notice an increasing dialogue regarding food allergies in recent years. One of the most visible examples is peanut allergy. In the last five years alone the peanut allergy diagnoses among children has risen 55%. In addition to peanuts, there are many other food allergens out there. These allergens have the potential to affect not only those already diagnosed with food allergies, but also those who have yet to discover that they too are allergic to certain foods. Unfortunately, parents often find out their child has an allergy only when the child has a reaction. According to the Center for Disease Control nearly 3 million children across the country today are affected by some type of food allergy and the number can be expected to continue to rise in the coming years.
Allergic reactions to foods range from uncomfortable rashes to full-on, life threatening anaphylaxis requiring immediate medical attention. The threats are real, and varied, and the amount of the allergen required to cause a reaction are often tiny particles. In addition to eating something containing an allergen, children with food allergies can experience life-threatening reactions through inadvertent food contact, or cross-contamination, and in certain instances, inhalation. Allergic reactions currently account for more than 30,000 annual emergency room visits and this is, unfortunately, another trend that appears to be on the rise.
This rise in both the instances of food allergy diagnosis as well as allergic reactions brings with it a growing need for food allergy safety training and awareness in our schools, daycare facilities, youth camps or any other place where children gather. In order to better protect food allergic children, it is imperative that schools, daycare facilities and camps obtain training and education in food allergy awareness.
Parents Remain Vigilant
Parents of food allergic children, having often experienced some sort of reaction already, are usually well aware of the gravity of the situation and tend to be hyper-vigilant when it comes to their child and potential allergens. Outside of their home however, there are many challenges to overcome. Ordinary events like school lunches and classroom parties, riding a bus, after-school activities, and field trips are just a few of the things that cause great stress and anxiety for the parent who cannot be there to supervise their child. Currently, the standard operating procedure is for the parent of an allergic child to leave a list of the child’s food allergies and their child’s emergency Epinephrine (EpiPen) with someone on the staff. Quite honestly, this is not enough. Teachers, counselors or any staff member that have food allergic children under their care need to be properly trained. Anaphylaxis can happen suddenly and progress rapidly. Immediate and accurate response is crucial! It is vital to know how to recognize allergic reactions and administer emergency epinephrine. When it comes to maintaining the safety of food allergic children, the faculty and staff of our educational and recreational institutions must be as vigilant and knowledgeable as the most concerned parent.
In addition to keeping food allergic children physically safe in school there are also the emotional and psychological factors to consider as well. Children in general want to fit in and be accepted and often times this is hard enough without the added issue of allergies. The more aware and educated the teachers, caregivers, counselors and their peers are about food allergies the easier it will be for them to communicate and speak the same language. They will learn ways to protect each food allergic child in a low-key manner without pointing them out and making a big scene in front of the class. Often times food allergic children are simply segregated and handed their “special” treats without much regard for their feelings. Food allergic children are resilient and strong, but like any child they long to eat the same cupcakes as the rest of the class. They watch the other children eat without pause or fear while they accept their “special” treat without question and often never show their hidden feelings of “why me?” Children with food allergies are some of the strongest and bravest children I know! They deserve to learn and play in a safe and caring environment and when feasible, they should be given every opportunity for complete inclusion in group events!
Since there is not a cure for food allergies at the present time, strict avoidance of food allergens is crucial. Food allergic children think about food safety every single day. Events like birthday parties, snacks, holidays and sleepovers, the very things that most children take for granted can be extremely fretful and worrisome for children with food allergies. Having an opportunity to be able to relieve some these anxieties for allergic children is a wonderful thing. With proper food allergy safety training people will find that it does not take much to care for these children and make them feel included in all activities.
Agency to Help you Gain Knowledge
I am passionate about the advocacy for food allergy safety training in schools, daycare facilities and camps/recreational institutions. In addition to my 8 years of first-hand experience, I have received specialized training through the Ell Foundation’s “Protect Allergic Children” (PAC) Program resulting in certification as a Food Allergy Safety Consultant.” As a consultant, I provide food allergy safety training to schools/preschools, cafeterias, daycare facilities, youth camps/recreational institutions, hospitals and families. ELL supports the rights of every child to eat safe foods, to learn in safe environments and to live a safer life with food allergies and anaphylaxis.
Given my qualifications as an Ell Protect Allergic Children (PAC) Consultant and mother of two food allergic children, I am fortunate to pass on an unprecedented level of knowledge and expertise in the food allergy arena to schools, camps, daycare facilities and to food allergic families.
Training services include:
• Teaching how to recognize the signs/symptoms of allergic reactions and understand the seriousness of a life-threatening reaction, and why immediate and accurate response time is crucial.
• Hands-on training with administering an Epinephrine Auto-Injector.
• Learning to identify potential areas for food allergen cross-contamination.
• Recognizing hidden allergens that are found in certain craft projects, soaps, lotions and food labels.
• Defining the language of food allergies and thus enabling better communication with a food allergic child or parents of a child.
• Providing tools such as a Risk Assessment Worksheet designed to facilitate the necessary protocols for establishing an effective Food Allergy Safety Policy.
• Guidance in creating individual Emergency Food Allergy Action Plans for food allergic children.
Training sessions provide concerned institutions with a concrete knowledge of food allergies. In addition to raising individual knowledge and awareness, the training also provides the steps required to establish a proactive food allergy safety policy to prevent allergic reactions from happening in the first place.
With thorough training, schools, camps, daycare facilities and other institutions can be prepared and confident in their care of food allergic children. They will have a solid understanding of food allergies and be able to maintain a much better line of communication with children and parents. Both parents and administrators can breathe easier knowing that those entrusted with the care of our children are proactive in prevention, aware and concerned with our child’s daily welfare and feelings, and ready and able to deal with an emergency should one occur.
For more information regarding Food Allergy Safety Training for your school, cafeteria, camp or home contact: