Food Allergies in the Classroom

Allergies to all kinds of food have always existed, but over the last two decades they seem to have increased exponentially!!!

Some interesting statistics from The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAA):

  • The prevalence of food allergy among children under the age of 18 increased 18% percent from 1997 to 2007.
  • Peanut allergy affects 1.2% of children. Approximately 20% of children outgrow it by age 6.
  • Peanut allergy doubled in children from 1997-2002.
  • Skin contact and inhalation exposure to peanut butter are unlikely to cause systemic reactions or anaphylaxis.

I’m not here to speculate on why this is, but the question I have is how do schools and parents work together to ensure the safety of the children without alienating the child without making waves in the classrooms for the rest of the kids?

Cafeteria:

Our schools have an allergy free table in the cafeteria, that all children with food allergies sit at during their lunch period. They can invite a friend (if they buy lunch that day) and there is an absolute no food sharing rule throughout the school.  It seems to work out great.

Class Parties:

I am a room mom at my children’s elementary school.  We typically have about  four class parties each year.  In the recent years, the rules have changed. We no longer bring in what would be considered an “unhealthy treat”. Only small amounts of healthy foods are permitted for each celebration.  For allergy and food safety reasons, it’s been suggested that  home baked goods not come into the classroom for parties at all.  I agree completely.  But where do we draw the line?

Is it okay to offer a treat that is not “allergy free” as long as you offer an alternative?  Who’s responsibility should it be?  Of course we want to keep our kids safe, but are we helping these kids by protecting them from the foods that are dangerous to them? Or is it better to start making kids learn from the beginning that their situation is different and they always need to be their own advocate and be responsible to their own issues?  This is definitely a personal decision.  Some parents may not want their child to be singled out as the “allergy kid” and choose to leave “safe snacks”  in the classroom so that their child always has a treat if needed.  Some parents feel more comfortable knowing that the classroom is “allergy free” for their child.  Regardless,  a child should always be taught to be checking to make sure that any treat is safe for them before they eat it.  Is it fair to make a classroom allergy free for some specific food allergies and not for others?  It is also important to teach children without allergies to be respectful and aware of the dangers involved in exposing a child to a food that they may be allergic too.

As a parent of a child with these restrictions – what is your role?  Would you rather the party is “allergy free”, or do you choose to provide snacks (just in case) so that there is something available regardless of what happens in the classroom?   Are you against having an alternate “safe” option or would you choose no snack at all.

What are we trying to teach our children?… to overcome adversity, learn to cope with small samplings of the real world or hope everyone and everything changes for us.

How do you see this topic?

 

1 Comment

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