SEATTLE — For the first time, the federal government has issued a set of guidelines for managing children’s food allergies at school as part of a growing public health concern that affects up to 6 percent of children in the United States.
The voluntary guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention include recommendations on what to do when a child has an allergic reaction and how schools can create awareness of children with allergies among faculty and staff.
It’s estimated that nearly 90 percent of schools have one or more students with a food allergy. Children with food allergies can face challenges that could affect their ability to learn and their social and emotional development, according to the CDC.
Advocates contend the new guidelines could make schools safer for millions of children, but could also mean more classrooms will ban food rewards, snacks and party treats made with common allergens including nuts, milk and eggs, USA Today reported.
The new guidelines suggest schools should:
- Avoid using foods identified as allergens in class projects, parties, snacks, science experiments and cooking exercises in allergic children’s classrooms.
- Train staff to use injecting devices for the medication epinephrine (such as Epi-Pens) when students have severe allergic reactions – known as anaphylaxis.
- Make sure children who can use their own injectors can get to them quickly.
- Make sure children with food allergies are not excluded from field trips, extracurricular activities, physical education or recess.
- Consider designating food-free zones or allergen-safe zones.
- Use non-food incentives for prizes, gifts and awards.
Food allergies among children are getting more common, increasing nearly 20 percent from 1997 to 2007. Earlier this year, Washington state passed a law making it easier to treat children suffering from a potentially life-threatening reaction to allergies. School nurses can now administer epinephrine to any student, even if they’ve never been diagnosed with an allergy.
Read more about the new CDC guidelines here.