Kids with Food Allergies in Schools: What Parents Need to Know

allergies-schoolA food allergy occurs when the body’s immune system sees a certain food as harmful and reacts by causing one or more symptoms. This is known as an allergic reaction. Foods that cause allergic reactions are called allergens. Even a tiny amount of an allergen can cause a reaction. Allergic reactions usually occur after your child eats a food of which he or she is allergic.

With school beginning this month, how do you keep your child safe in school when he or she has a food allergy? It starts by letting your child’s school know about the allergy. Successfully transitioning your child into school requires forming a partnership between you, the school nurse, teachers, administrators, cafeteria staff, maintenance staff, transportation staff, coaches, other parents and your child’s classmates.

But what are the next steps? How do we combat food allergens in a place constantly bustling with people and activities? The only way to avoid an allergic reaction is for your child to stay away from foods that have caused symptoms. In some cases, even traces of an allergen can cause an allergic reaction. Here are some easy steps you can take to protect your child from food allergens:

  • Learn how to read food labels to determine if the product includes any of your child’s allergens. Read the label every time you buy a product, even if you’ve used that product before. Did you know that food ingredients in any given product may change without notice? Stay informed.
  • Ask about ingredients in foods that other people make for your child. Don’t be afraid to contact key administrative and cafeteria staff to talk about the meals served at your child’s school and what ingredients are used. Often, there are already plans in place to keep children with allergies safe from harm. Learn what those procedures are before school begins.
  • Avoid passing allergens to foods that are safe for your child to eat by making sure your child washes his or her hands with soap and water before handling food.
  • Educate family, friends and others who will be with your child about your child’s allergies. Be sure to tell your child’s school and anyone responsible for your child about his or her food allergies. Referring to helpful handouts like Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) are great resources for families of children with food allergens.
  • Teach your child how to manage his or her food allergies. You can start teaching your child even at a young age. When old enough, teach your child to read labels. Also teach your child how and when to use an epinephrine auto-injector, and to tell an adult if he or she is having an allergic reaction.
  • After the diagnosis, focus on what safe foods your child can have, rather than what he or she can’t have. Start with plain foods with simple ingredients. From there you can look for new recipes that use safe ingredients.
  • Be aware of food allergy symptoms and make sure your child is, too. The type of symptoms and their severity may vary from one reaction to the next. Sometimes allergy symptoms are mild. Other times, symptoms can be severe and result in a serious allergic reaction called anaphylaxis, an allergic emergency that can cause death. An allergic reaction to a food can involve one or more symptoms of the skin, mouth, eyes, lungs, heart, gut and brain.
  • Be prepared for anaphylaxis by working with your child your doctor on how to recognize the signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis and how to treat it. Also, make sure your child’s teach or other after-school caregivers are aware of the situation and able to make decisions about treatment.

The pediatricians at Association of Childcare Physicians in Belleville, Ill. have been proudly caring for patients since 1965 and can be your family’s advocate on vaccinations. Our doctors are committed to providing specialized care for children from birth through their adolescent years. Parents can have peace of mind knowing that Dr. Robert Kellow and Dr. Eleanor Shaw always will devote the necessary time and attention to making sure your child is treated with compassionate and thorough care. Our accommodating, fun and friendly environment makes children and families feel comfortable and welcomed. Our doctors and staff respect your time and always aim to keep scheduled appointment times with very little wait.

If you’re looking for a pediatrician in the Metro East Illinois or St. Louis area, or if you are considering changing your pediatric practice affiliation, you have the option to schedule a “Meet and Greet” visit – at no cost to you – to meet with Dr. Kellow or Dr. Shaw. Call the Association of Childcare Physicians today at 618-235-2311 to schedule a “Meet and Greet” appointment or visit us online at