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Thursday, January 26, 2006

Food allergies in schools

Food allergies affect 6-8 percent of school-age children and have increased 55 percent in the last five years, according to a report issued by the Massachusetts Department of Education. It also says that forty to 50% of allergic children have a high risk of anaphylaxis (a life-threatening allergic reaction, which can occur within minutes of exposure to the allergen).

Allergic reactions vary among students. Some react by touching or inhaling the allergen, others can die from consumption of as little as one five-thousandth of a teaspoon of the allergenic food.

Eight foods (peanut, tree nut, milk, egg, soy, wheat, fish and shellfish) account for 90 percent of food allergies, although any food can cause an allergic reaction.

School districts should develop policies to reduce exposure to food allergens and treat allergic reactions:

the school nurse should oversee the development of an Individualized Health Care Plan for each student
all staff should receive basic education concerning food allergies
schools should be prepared to manage an anaphylactic emergency by having personnel trained to respond, physician’s orders on file and a current supply of epinephrine and auto-injectors on hand for emergencies