Allergy Shmallergy

Simplifying life for families with food allergies.

Food Allergy Policies at School – Considerations and Perspective August 14, 2018

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As the school year beings for some and approaches for others, now is an excellent time to reflect on the food allergy policies and procedures at your school. As research and information about best practices emerge, schools should know that small changes can have a big impact.  Camps may also wish to track these same kind of policy shifts to keep campers safe while in their care next summer.

 

Why do schools need a food allergy policy?

 

Schools must create a safe environment for students with life threatening food allergies. Administrators should begin by creating a comprehensive food allergy policy for the entire school or school district.  Policies may vary from school to school depending on their experiences and limitations.  In fact, allergists are hesitant to suggest blanket recommendations for that reason.  Whatever each school decides, the policy and procedures set regarding food allergies need to be

1.  widely communicated;

2.  easily accessible; and

3.  consistently applied and protected.

These policies serve as a baseline for food allergic families to make decisions about additional measures they may need to take in order to keep their child safe.

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Where do schools begin and what factors should they consider in regards to their food allergy policies and procedures?  

When formulating food allergy policies and procedures, schools should consider some of the following factors:

  1.  Age of students and their cognitive and physical development:  Schools may have different policies for students of different ages.  For example, elementary schools may forbid a child from carrying his/her own epinephrine auto-injector while a middle and high school may allow that.
  2. Common risks facing the age group of their students:  Are the students allowed to share food without permission?  What are the school’s thoughts on classroom parties and celebrations? Do your students commonly face peer pressure or bullying? Are they allowed to snack/eat independently (away from a cafeteria or not during a traditional lunch time)?
  3. Stock/unassigned epinephrine: In many states, schools are either required or allowed to keep unassigned (or stock) epinephrine on-hand in case of an anaphylactic reaction.  That means that if a student, staff, or faculty member has a reaction and does not already have epinephrine prescribed to them and stored at school, the unassigned epinephrine may be used.  Consider whether your school should carry this useful medication and who should be in charge of administering it.
  4. Nursing schedule and availability:  Does your school have a full-time nurse?  How many students is he or she responsible for looking after?
  5. How and where to store epinephrine: Is the nurse’s office centrally located or would it be wise to store epinephrine with a trained administrator closer to a lunchroom or classrooms?
  6. Hand washing: Hand sanitizer does not remove the proteins that can cause a food allergic reaction.  Only a scrub with soap and water can do that. Are the students required to wash hands at any point in the day?
  7. Communication with parents:  This piece may not make it into policy, but it should be discussed.  Advanced communication with parents regarding upcoming class parties, school celebrations involving food, field trips, and other food-related events allows parents and teachers to make appropriate accommodations to keep their food allergic student safe.
  8. The classroom versus the lunchroom: How will food allergy policies differ by location within the school?  Rules in the classroom regarding food may be very different from rules in the cafeteria.  Who will be responsible in which location?
  9. Field trips: Each school should consider who is responsible for carrying and administering epinephrine when students are away from school.  Go over a plan should someone have a severe allergic reaction.  Be reminded that epinephrine must be kept at room temperature, so if you are spending time outside in hot or cold weather, epinephrine will need to be temperature controlled.  Communicate this plan to teachers and parents so that everyone is on the same page.
  10. Faculty and staff education:  Faculty and staff should be educated and RE-educated about food allergies each year.  They must learn to recognize the signs of severe allergic reactions (called anaphylaxis) and what those symptoms might sound like in the words of a young child.  [See The Language of Food Allergies for the symptoms and language students may use to describe an allergic reaction.]  They need to learn how to respond to an allergic reaction.  Understanding the basics of cross-contamination and ingredient label reading, among other lessons, will help protect food allergic students in their classrooms.

 

Food allergies are often misunderstood.  Not only can they cause severe allergic reactions that can be fatal, but they cause a great amount of time, preparation, and anxiety for students and parents alike.  This anxiety can hamper a student’s ability to learn. Therefore, it is imperative that schools make every effort to provide a safe environment for learning both academically and socially.  With two students in every classroom suffering from food allergies, it is critically important that schools consider how they can best prepare families and teachers to protect these students.

 

New Snack Alert! Enjoy Life Granola Bars September 6, 2017

Note: Enjoy Life sent me their new granola flavors to sample.  I am reviewing because I truly enjoyed them and believe they are a good product for families like mine.

Your lunch game just got easier.  Enjoy Life recently released granola bars in a few new flavors – and they are anything but ordinary.  While on vacation with our extended family, we decided to have a taste test.  We’re a picky crew, because between us we are allergic to:  peanuts, tree nuts, sesame seeds, dairy, eggs, pineapple, shrimp, salmon and gluten (celiac).

 

Amazingly, these were a big hit with everyone, allergic and otherwise.  Everyone had their own favorite flavor.  Mine was the Caramel Blondie.  Sweet and buttery, the caramel tasted fantastic dotted with chocolate chips.  Why hasn’t this flavor been created sooner?!

My cousin, a chef, loved the Carrot Cake granola bars.   The cinnamon-y, pumpkin spice flavor was just right balanced against the sweet carrot taste.  Your kids will LOVE eating their vegetables this way!  If only it counted towards their daily intake!

Her daughter, 6, preferred the Lemon Blueberry Poppy Seed.  What a sophisticated palate – clearly the child of a cook!  These were moist and delicious like the others.  The blueberry and poppy tastes were complimented by the citrusy lemon.  Yum!  I’d eat these for breakfast!  Is that a thing?!

 

Best of all, as always Enjoy Life is free from: gluten, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, dairy, eggs, soy, fish and shellfish and are Kosher and Halal and non-GMO.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leprechauns Rejoice! Stories, Game & Easy *No Bake* Snack for St. Patrick’s Day in the Classroom March 16, 2015

I can hear those bagpipes already!  I think most people agree that St. Patrick’s Day is one of the most happy holidays out there.  You don’t need to have roots in the Emerald Isle to enjoy it either; afterall, everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day!  And, now everyone can enjoy an allergy-free celebration with veggie clovers and sesame seed-free hummus dip.

So, if you’re having a classroom celebration as we did a few years ago, may I suggest these few tips that worked fantastically for our elementary school aged kids:

1.  Download some Irish tunes (you’ll be clapping and toe tapping in the car en route!).  Start with “The Unicorn” by the Irish Rovers (fun fact: this song was written by Shel Silverstein!).

2.  Find a good children’s story.  I last read one from our school’s library (out of print now) about siblings who tried to catch a leprechaun in the hope of gaining some wishes.  It entranced the kids so much that my son came home and built about 5 leprechaun traps in our yard (lots of bugs, no leprechauns caught).  You can check out Amazon’s best sellers for St. Patrick’s Day here to find one that fits your audience.

3.  Crafts or games are always a good idea.  Get those kids moving!  If you have the flexibility, take the gang outside to build leprechaun traps out of sticks and bark.  Indoors, you could decorate boxes (rainbows encouraged!) or use legos to make in the “traditional” leprechaun box trap.  I understand leprechauns are lured by the promise of gold…

4.  Finally, give them food!  Here’s my easy, no bake, idea for serving the kids something healthy…

St. Patrick’s Day Veggie Clovers

mini cucumbers (also sold as persian cucumbers)

green bell peppers (you may wish to choose ones that have fewer side slits)

optional: red or yellow bell peppers or slivers of carrots

For the sesame seed-free hummus:

1 can (15 oz) garbanzo beans, drained but reserving liquid

2 cloves garlic

olive oil

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp ground cumin

optional:  3 slivers of roasted red pepper

Thinly slice cucumber into disks and overlap to arrange into three and four-leaf clovers.  Hollow out peppers and carefully slice horizontally.  If using carrots, slice into thin disks and arrange as clovers or slice into sticks and place in ramekin for easy snacking.

For the dip:  Add garbanzo beans, garlic cloves, olive oil, salt and cumin into a blender or food processor.  Pulse until well-blended.  Add reserved liquid to desired consistency.  Optionally, add roasted red peppers to make a red pepper hummus dip.

Erin Go Bragh!  And Enjoy!

 

Costco’s Getting More Allergy-Friendly September 25, 2012

Need a safe snack to send to school?  Have a class party, soccer team to feed, play group snack to contribute to?  Check out what I found during one recent trip to our local Costco!    Has anyone tried these products?    I can only vouch for the School Safe Banana Chocolate Chip bread snacks which are delicious and perfect for school lunches/snacks.  They are nut-free and freezable (bonus for shelf life!).  My son loved the bread, so naturally I’m curious how the other snacks taste.

 

Note:  The popcorn was gluten-free but made in a facility with nuts.

 

 

Sunbutter for a Sunny Day June 26, 2012

Here’s another review in favor of Sunbutter.  I had resisted buying Sunbutter, the peanut-free peanut butter made from sunflower seeds.  I had a reservation about introducing my peanut allergic son to Sunbutter and worried that he would have an impossible time distinguishing it from real peanut butter outside our house.  Let’s face it:  it generally isn’t served outside of a peanut-free house and I was concerned that this might set him up for disaster.

 

But recently I concluded that he’s old enough to know that this is special allergy-free spread.  And, I was craving peanut butter as a healthy (ish) snack alternative with apples and celery.  If Sunbutter worked as a substitute, at a minimum my husband and I could enjoy it!

 

And, I will say, we are split in our feelings about it.  I absolutely LOVE it!  It tastes almost exactly like peanut butter to me — so much so that I originally felt guilty about having it!  It is unbelievably nut-free, but you’d never know.  And, I suspect this would be perfect for baking as well – a very exciting prospect!

 

In the interest of balance, my husband wasn’t as enthusiastic about it.   Bummer.

 

That said, I would highly recommend it for a peanut-free household.  You may wish, as I did, to consider the unintended consequences of introducing a substitute peanut butter and weigh them against your child’s age, understanding of his/her allergy, responsibility levels, etc.  But I would also suggest any family dealing with nut-free restrictions consider Sunbutter – it is perfect for lunches at nut-free schools, camps and playdates.  And, it’s quite a treat for us non-allergic parents and siblings who don’t get to indulge in peanut butter very often.

 

Nut-Free Pumpkin Seeds at a Discount! April 23, 2012

Finding nut-free seeds is like finding Willy Wonka’s Golden Ticket.  Bizarrely difficult.

 

Enter Gerbs.

 

I’ve already tried the Toasted Onion and Garlic variety (see Found: Nut-Free Seeds).  And, now we can’t stop eating the Touch of Sea Salt.  Gerbs are addictively delicious!  And, a great way to satisfy those nut cravings in our nut-free household.  Plus, they are safe to send to school, camp, and playdates.  Too bad I have to share them with the rest of the fam!

 

If you want to try them, check their website for local retailers -OR- you can order online and receive a 10% discount on your entire order by using the code “SHMALLERGY”.

Let me know if anyone tries the trail mix!  Mmmm…..

 

Off-the-Shelf School Safe Treats (Nut-Free!) April 13, 2012

While at the zoo the other day, my friend whipped out these individually-wrapped treats for our boys.  My youngest son (not allergic, but still a picky palette) wolfed it down in less than 3 bites.  To say he liked them seemed like an understatement.  Better yet, it turns out that these treats were purchased from our local Whole Foods!  How could I have missed them before.

 

Treasure Mills School Safe Products are 100% tree nut and peanut-free.  And, as implied in the name, they are perfect for classroom parties, school/camp snacks, playdates, etc.  They appear to make many products from breads to cookies to brownies to mini-cakes.  And that’s not all!  Treasure Mills lists the safety of their foods against sesame seed, wheat, dairy, egg, soy, sulfite, fish/shellfish allergies as well as which products are reduced fat, sugar free and trans-fat free.

 

Treasure Mills products can be found in a number of stores including Walmart, Whole Foods, and Costco (in Canada).  I’ll be on the hunt for these tomorrow!