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When I worked in childcare, we had at any given time, one or two kids with a potentially life threatening (anaphylactic) food allergy in our care. In all cases, the kids were allergic to nuts—peanuts and tree nuts—and at a nut-free centre, we never experienced any issues for these children. This is how it should be! Other than on occasion having to carry a kid’s EpiPen belt when we were on a field trip at a waterpark (where otherwise it was attached to them), or checking random ingredient lists on my own work lunch foods or—on occasion—that of the kids in our care, we were extremely diligent, cautious, and prepared, but we had no issues with these kids. Again: this is how it should be. Food allergies are a big deal, always, but if proper precautions are taken by those surrounding the child with the allergy, in keeping the person’s environment free of the food or substance they are allergic to, that person is perfectly healthy. So, how do we keep kids with food allergies that way at school? By being cautious and careful and teaching them to do the same!
At school, or daycare, or camp, or ANYWHERE, children should have a food allergy plan to follow, both outlining how reactions will be prevented (an allergy management plan) as well as what to do in an emergency (a food allergy or anaphylaxis action plan). These plans ensure that those responsible for their health and safety—caregivers, even if not parents, including teachers, principals, camp staff, or grandparents for a few examples—have no doubts about their responsibilities.
Keeping kids with food allergies safe
A few hours before writing this, I was on a conference call when we heard the leader’s phone jingling in the background. She excused herself and we continued discussing. Her teenage daughter was calling as she’d just eaten a peanut at school. With a history of food allergy, her teacher immediately responded in the right way: gave her epinephrine, called 911, and then the daughter alerted her mom—breathing completely fine, but waiting for the ambulance as should always be done as precaution even for a suspected allergic reaction and epinephrine injection, even though she had no evident symptoms. With remarkable calm, the mom continued on with the conference call—fifteen minutes later another call came with details of which hospital the kid was headed to. Because her teacher was well informed and followed the action plan and protocol “by the book”, we adjourned the call with well wishes, concern, but feeling reasonably assured things would be okay. Food allergies and anaphylaxis are scary, but with a straight-forward plan, thankfully, fatal reactions are most often preventable with epinephrine and medical care.
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