Keep Your Child Safe From Food Allergy at School

By Louis Neipris, MD, Staff Writer
8/6/2012 1:59:22 PM

Your child with a dangerous food allergy is nearing school age and you are concerned.

-Will my child be safe at school?
-Will he be exposed to other kids' foods?
-Do teachers and staff know what to do in case my child has an allergic reaction or goes into anaphylaxis?

These are important questions. First, know that your child is not alone. More than 3 million kids in the U.S. have food allergies. Since a federal law was passed in 2004, most states let children carry both asthma and anaphylaxis medications with them to school. Before this, medications could be confiscated as part of a "zero tolerance" policy against drugs. More schools are also creating action plans to handle allergic reactions.

What is anaphylaxis?

The immune system normally protects against foreign invaders, like bacteria or viruses. In an allergic reaction, the immune system overreacts against normally harmless substances. This includes "antigens" or proteins from food. The body releases chemicals, such as histamine, which causes hives.

An anaphylactic reaction is an extreme allergic response. Within minutes after exposure to an antigen, the child would start to have trouble breathing. His or her blood pressure drops and the child may lose consciousness. Call 9-1-1 right away if you see a child with these symptoms.

Epinephrine is a drug that acts quickly to improve breathing and restore blood pressure. But the effects are temporary. Using an epi-pen (syringe and needle carrying epinephrine) can buy precious time, about 10 minutes, to allow for emergency assistance to arrive.

What should I do to keep my child safe at school?

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