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21 August 2009

Back to School Tips from FAAN

From the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN):

The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network Urges
Back to School Food Allergy Safety

FAIRFAX, Va. (August 13, 2009) – Millions of families are preparing for the annual back to school ritual that marks the end of summer, but for parents with children who have food allergies, it’s not just about school supplies and first-day jitters. It’s about ensuring their child will not have an allergic reaction in school.

Food allergy management in schools and childcare facilities has improved remarkably in recent years, but proactive efforts remain important to keep students safe.

“As parents get their children ready for the beginning of the school year, we must work together as a community to help children feel comfortable and safe in their learning environment,” said Julia Bradsher, CEO of the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN). “No one – whether you have a child with food allergies or not – wants a student to have a life-threatening reaction at school.”

Encouragingly, a recent poll showed that parents are generally aware and accepting of accommodations that must be made for students with food allergies. The C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health showed that one-quarter of parents with a child in elementary school report knowing a child with a life-threatening food allergy in school. Nearly half of the respondents said it was “not at all inconvenient” to make accommodations for a child with food allergies. About 75 percent of the poll’s respondents said their child’s school or childcare facility has policies banning treats from home or requiring a food allergy action plan.

“It is heartening in a sense that a large proportion of the elementary schools and daycares are making accommodations, which a few years ago, was not the case,” said Dr. Harvey L. Leo, adjunct clinical associate of pediatrics and assistant research scientist at the University of Michigan Center for Managing Chronic Disease in the School of Public Health. “Across the board, it really does look like schools and childcare centers are starting to pay more attention.”

FAAN and Leo both advise parents of children with food allergies to communicate early with school administrators and to get input from their child’s physician. If accommodations are to be made, school officials should also make an effort to involve parents whose children do not have food allergies, Leo said.

At Munsey Park Elementary School in Manhasset, N.Y., school officials developed an allergy team of parents, teachers, and administrators and conduct training twice a year, among other practices.

“Our school family believes in the importance of each child. Whether it is an allergy or other medical condition, academic or other need, we do whatever it takes to successfully facilitate the school environment so that each child can stay healthy and learn,” said Dr. Jean Kendall, school principal.

To help children going off to school with food allergies, FAAN has developed a back-to-school toolkitwww.foodallergy.org/school/toolkit.html. for all grade levels. The kit includes tools that can be downloaded or purchased and are great resources for parents, teachers, and school nurses alike to educate others about food allergy. For more information, visit www.foodallergy.org/school/toolkit.html.

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