Sneezy and Wheezy
Allergies used to be considered more of a nuisance than anything else, and ragweed, pollen, and cat fur seemed to be considered the main culprits when the topic came up. It was all about sneezing and maybe a little wheezing back then. But since the mid 1990s, food allergies have been in the forefront – and with good reason, since that’s the time they started to become more and more common in children.1
Once relatively rare, food allergies now affect 5 – 6% of young children, and in some cases they can be deadly.2 People with food allergies have immune systems that recognize a specific food protein as being harmful. When that food is eaten, the body’s immune system responds by releasing histamine – a chemical that can cause a reaction in the respiratory system, gastrointestinal tract, skin, or cardiovascular system.3
In severe cases, sometimes even the smallest amount of exposure to a food allergen – like touching a surface where a trigger food has been sitting – can cause a reaction in an affected person.
It’s for this reason that most schools have such strict policies in place to protect children with food allergies. There may be nut-free classrooms, or in some cases even a completely nut-free school. While this can be frustrating for parents whose children don’t have any allergies, the protective measure is a lifesaver for other children.
Some schools won’t allow homemade snacks in the classroom because they can’t guarantee they have come from homes that are completely free from whatever food trigger happens to be the problem. But if your child’s school is able to be flexible – and if you’re certain you know all the potential triggers identified in your child’s school or classroom – there are homemade treats you can make that are safe for your child to bring along in their lunchbox. Just make sure to always check with your child’s teacher first before sending in any homemade snacks.
- Allergic Living has huge range of allergy-friendly recipes, including a section on cookies and cakes where you’ll find sweets like Butterscotch Bars, Caramel Apple Oat Bars, and Hot Chocolate Cookies.
- Kids With Food Allergies allows you to search their database for recipes “free of” whatever offending ingredient you choose including milk, peanut, egg, soy, tree nut, gluten, wheat, fish, shellfish and sesame.
- Taste of Home has 10 sweet ideas for allergy-friendly treats including Nut-free S’mores Bars, Egg and Lactose-free Cupcakes, and Nut-free Ice Cream Cone Treats.
Peanuts and tree nuts are one of the leading causes of food-related allergic reactions, so elementary schools usually put strict protective measures in place to reduce the risk of exposure and to make lunch and snack time safer for everyone. According to the Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology4, you might see the following steps being taken at your child’s school:
- Lunch supervisors will make sure that procedures for proper hand washing and clean up are being followed, including a ‘no sharing’ policy of food, utensils, containers, straws, etc.
- Peanut butter and other peanut/tree nut products may be prohibited.
- Children who bring peanut/tree nut products to school may be required to eat lunch at a designated table.
- Children with allergies may be seated at a table that has been designated allergy-safe or allergy-aware.
Back-to-school is an exciting time but for children with allergies – and their parents – it can be a little extra stressful until everyone is settled in and comfortable with the routine. Because any restrictions are designed to protect the safety of the child or children with allergies, the rules and regulations are usually quickly and happily adopted by all.
For more information on food allergies including signs, symptoms and common triggers, visit the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.
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