At the start of every new school year, parents are faced with the ever-present issue of food allergies. Parents of food-allergic children must manage the complexities of this condition, while those with allergy-free kids must comply with a series of restrictions. Food allergies are a fact of life that no one can ignore, since children’s lives are at stake.
What is a food allergy?
A food allergy is an exaggerated response of the immune system caused by eating an otherwise harmless food item.
To protect and learn
Children with food allergies must be protected. That is why many schools have now banned certain foods from lunchboxes; others even prohibit the sharing of food among students. These practices protect food-allergic children from exposure to various allergens, while giving them the chance to learn how to manage their own allergies in the future.
Common allergens and their substitutes
Here is a list of the most allergenic foods:
- Peanuts (substitutes: butter, soy seeds)
- Nuts and sesame seeds
- Milk (alternative sources of calcium: enriched soy or rice beverages)
- Fish, shellfish and crustaceans (can be replaced with flax or chia seeds to get those valuable omega-3 fatty acids)
- Wheat (all gluten-free products are suitable for people with a wheat allergy, in addition to items made with rice, quinoa, corn and whole grains)
Fortunately, a growing number of products are now CAC certified (certified allergen control), which guarantees that the optimal allergen control requirements have been met for certain allergens, including peanuts, almonds, milk and eggs.
A spare lunchbox to the rescue
What if your daughter forgets her lunchbox at home? Or your son loses his house key or cannot make it home for lunch due to bad weather? A safe, simple solution is to pack a spare lunchbox for your child’s locker. This “emergency” lunch can include canned food (make sure you also add a can opener), vegetable juice and individually wrapped cookies. It goes without saying that these items must also be free of the child’s allergens.
What about anaphylactic shock?
Anaphylactic shock is a severe, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction that usually occurs suddenly. It involves a variety of symptoms:
- Skin: hives, swelling, itchiness, redness, etc.
- Respiratory: wheezing, shortness of breath, choking, coughing, etc.
- Gastrointestinal: vomiting, cramps, diarrhea, etc.
- Cardiac: drop in blood pressure, loss of consciousness, etc.
If your child is at risk for severe reactions, such as anaphylactic shock, you must tell his or her teachers, lunchroom supervisors, after-school care providers and principal’s office. It is also a good idea to have your child wear a food allergy medical bracelet.
On the first day of class, parents of younger children must provide the school with their child’s epinephrine auto-injector. As for older children, they need to be taught how to use their auto-injector and told just how important it is to carry it with them at all times.
Your family pharmacist can answer your questions about food allergies, explain how the epinephrine auto-injector works and even teach you how to use it. Just ask!