Resources for Starting Pre-School with Food Allergies

00075195Sending your young children to preschool can be especially stressful when they have food allergies. For children with food allergies, providing a safe and nurturing environment at preschool and daycare requires planning and effort on the part of the school and parents. To help with these special childhood stages, FARE can point you to helpful resources, such as:

Quick Facts

  • Preschools and daycare centers that receive federal funds are required to comply with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Section 504 allows you to create, in collaboration with the school, a 504 Plan, which is a written management plan outlining how the school will address the individual needs of your child, and allow your child to participate safely and equally alongside his/her peers during all normal facets of the school day.
  • Children at the preschool age frequently put hands/objects in their mouths, making cleaning and prevention strategies critical.
  • Hands-on learning and motor skill development activities often use non-food materials, which can potentially contain allergens. Working with the teacher and school staff is key to preventing exposures and including the child.

“Voluntary Guidelines for Managing Food Allergies in Schools and Early Care and Education Programs”

Published by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), these guidelines seek to protect the physical and emotional health of students with food allergies by providing practical information and strategies for schools while reinforcing federal laws and regulations. Download the guidelines >

Webinar Recording: “Managing Food Allergies in the Early Care Setting”

In case you missed it, FARE’s July 2014 webinar featured this presentation by Gina Mennett Lee and Laurel Francoeur, which addresses the important roles of both the parents and child care/education providers in creating a successful learning environment for children with food allergies. They discuss current research, best practices, recommendations from the CDC guidelines and practical management tips, as well as the rights of children with food allergies and applicable laws. View the webinar >

Twigtale: Custom Book About Your Child and Food Allergies

image001FARE has partnered with Twigtale – a custom online book publisher – to create a new, customizable book to help young children better understand their food allergies. As with Twigtale’s other titles, this collaboration between FARE and Twigtale provides parents with expert scripted language with plenty of options to personalize so that parents can educate their children about their individual food allergies and help them through transitions such as going off to preschool or kindergarten. The easy-to-use online template lets you create a customized book with photos and details about your child that you can use to help them understand their food allergy and important rules to keep them safe. A portion of the proceeds from sales of these custom food allergy books will be donated to FARE to support food allergy education, research, advocacy and awareness initiatives. Learn More >

NameBubbles:  Allergy Caution Labels

NameBubbles’ new stick-on labels are designed to alert the reader that they provide critical medical information about a child’s food allergy. A portion of the proceeds from sales of these labels will be donated to FARE. Learn more on the NameBubbles website.

MedicAlert

Wearing medical identification at all times can help keep your child safe in case of an allergic reaction, as well as alert others that your child has a life-threatening medical condition. The MyVoice program provides a 10 percent discount on MedicAlert memberships as well as $10 off a medical identification bracelet for both adults and children through FARE. Learn more on the MedicAlert website.

Many of FARE’s resources for managing food allergies at school also apply to the early care setting!

FARE-CDC Collaboration Results in Resources for Schools

cdccoverThe Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) published “Voluntary Guidelines for Managing Food Allergies in Schools and Early Care Education Programs” last fall. The information in these guidelines helps schools to avoid, recognize, and treat allergic reactions while ensuring that students with food allergies are safely included in all school activities. FARE has created several useful resources based on the CDC guidelines to help increase awareness around food allergy management in schools.

We encourage you to review, download and bring the following documents to your child’s school:

Keeping Children with Food Allergies Safe at School

cdcthumb1Every student at risk for anaphylaxis should have an individual written accommodation plan. A child’s accommodation plan (Section 504 or other written plan) has two parts: the accommodations or services needed for the child to be safely included in activities, and the emergency care plan (such as FARE’s Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Emergency Care Plan). Download this one-page handout of important recommendations from the CDC national guidelines.

Recommended Practices for Reducing the Risk of Exposure to Food Allergens and Responding to Food Allergies in Schools and Early Childhood Education Programs

cdcthumb2On pages 41–43 of the CDC guidelines are recommended practices and accommodations to help ensure that children with food allergies are safely included in school. Download this one-page handout of important recommendations from the CDC national guidelines. Recommendations for the Classroom, Cafeteria, Transportation, School Events, and Physical Education and Recess include practices such as:

  • Avoid the use of identified allergens in class projects, parties, holidays and celebrations, arts, crafts, science experiments, cooking, snacks, or rewards;
  • Use non-food incentives for prizes, gifts and awards;
  • Do not exclude children with food allergies from field trips, events, or extra-curricular activities;
  • Encourage hand washing before and after handling or consuming food; and
  • Have rapid access to epinephrine auto-injectors and train staff to use them.

Actions for School Boards and School District Administrators

Data from CDC’s 2006 School Health Policies and Programs Study indicated that only slightly more than 40 percent of school districts have model food allergy policies. District policies are implemented with the support of board members, the district superintendent, and district-level staff members.

cdcthumb3School Boards can adopt written policies that direct and support clear, consistent, and effective practices for managing the risk of food allergies and responding to food allergy emergencies. A comprehensive and uniform set of district policies can promote consistency of priorities, actions, and options for managing food allergies across the district to avoid confusion and haphazard responses, as well as ensuring that practices are aligned with federal and state laws, including regulations, and policies, as well as other established school policies. Download this handout.

cdcthumb4School District Administrators can provide direct assistance to schools to help them meet the needs of students with food allergies, especially when the school does not have key staff, such as a doctor or a full-time registered nurse. Effective management of food allergies in schools requires the participation of many people. Administrators can help ensure that policies and procedures are established in order to identify students with food allergies, and that all school staff understand the school’s responsibilities under the federal laws and regulations that govern food allergies at school including, but not limited to: Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA). Download this document.

For additional information, please visit: http://www.foodallergy.org/cdc

This article was originally published in the Summer 2014 issue of FARE’s Food Allergy News. Read more of the newsletter here.

Find Your Food Allergy BFFs

walkwomenYou have friends you exercise with, go on vacation with, and spend nights out with, but do you have friends who are also managing food allergies? Whether you branch out and make new “food allergy friends” in your town, or you connect online, it’s beneficial to build your support network. Having someone to talk to about challenges you’re facing, swap recipes, and trade tips is invaluable in the day-to-day management of food allergies.

Here are a few ways you can start building or expand your group of food allergy friends and confidants:

  • FARE Events

While all of FARE’s information and resources are available for free online, we know the value of gathering the food allergy community in person. That’s why we host events across the country to bring people together to learn, connect, and raise funds to support our mission. Here are just a few examples of the types of FARE events you can attend with your family and friends:

FARE Walk for Food Allergy Events

FARE Walks for Food Allergy are family-friendly events taking place in more than 60 communities nationwide in 2014. Walks are a great chance to meet other families in your community who are managing food allergies, as well as raise funds for food allergy research, education, advocacy and awareness. Register for a Walk at www.foodallergywalk.org.

Teen Summit

  1. The 9th Annual Teen Summit is a 3-day event, being held November 7-9, 2014 at the Grand Hyatt in Washington, D.C., that gives teens living with food allergies a chance to meet with other teens from across the country. There is also a sibling and parent track for family members to share their experiences and learn from some of our great speakers. You can hear about teens’ experiences at the summit by reading page 11 of our Summer edition of Food Allergy News. Register at http://www.foodallergy.org/teensummit.

FARE National Food Allergy Conference

This annual conference gathers the country’s leading food allergy experts and members of the food allergy community together for a weekend of world-class programming. The 2015 conference is scheduled for May 16-17 in Long Beach, California and registration will open in winter of 2014. Learn more about the 2014 conference at http://www.foodallergy.org/conference.

  • Support Groups

Online and in-person support groups can provide advice specific to your community, such as suggestions for local restaurants, products, and events.

Search FARE’s support group directory for a group in your area.

  • Blogs

Even if you’ve never met your favorite bloggers, you feel like you know them after learning so much about their lives online, and reading their blogs can start to feel like checking in with old friends. Food allergy bloggers are a great source for laughs, recipes, news and opinions about hot topics in food allergies. We’ve listed just a few blogs covering different topic areas here to get you started, and we encourage you to share your favorite food allergy blogs in the comments section!

Research

Food Allergy Mom Doc

Food Allergy Sleuth

Advocacy

The Grateful Foodie

Allergic Girl

Food Allergy Buzz

Food Allergy Mama

Oh Mah Deehness!

Parenting

The Nut-Free Mom

The Food Allergy Mom

Mom Versus Food Allergy

Mothernova

Allergic Kid

Multiple Food Allergy Help

Cooking and Recipes

Making it Milk Free

Don’t Feed My Monkeys

Our Life as an Epi Family

CAFE (Celiac & Allergy Friendly Epicurian)

Food Allergy Feast

Cybele Pascal – The Allergy Friendly Cook

EBL Food Allergies

Nut Free Wok

Adults with Food Allergies

Adventures of an Allergic Foodie

Franny Cakes

The Diary of Ana Phylaxis

Teens with Food Allergies

Food Allergy Froggie

Teen FAAB

Miles with M.E.

Gluten Free and Allergy Friendly

Raising Jack with Celiac

Ginger Lemon Girl

Angela’s Kitchen

Do you have any favorite food allergy blogs? List them in the comments section!

However you choose to reach out and connect to others in the food allergy community – we encourage you to make the effort. Good friends are truly invaluable to have by your side as you’re managing the day-to-day of living with food allergies.

The DoD and Food Allergy Research

It may come as a surprise to many that the Department of Defense (DoD) funds medical research, including food allergy research. But, in fact, the Pentagon has a robust and unique medical research program that has funded grants to food
allergy research projects.

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The origins of the DoD medical research program dates back to the early 1990s when Congress anticipated a budget windfall following the disintegration of the Soviet Union. Congress decided to use some of the “peace dividend” for medical research. Furthermore, members of Congress specifically told DoD what disease research to fund, hence the name, “The Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program.” The program has had a number of specific line items for different kinds of cancer research as well Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and others. Over the years, however, demand from disease advocates became so great that Congress also created a subset program called the “Peer-reviewed Medical Research Program” that has a pot of funding to conduct research among a menu of diseases and conditions. Last year that funding stood at $200 million with more than 25 diseases eligible for research. Among them were food allergies.

How do they decide what research to fund? The decisions are based on the submissions by medical researchers. When grants applications are submitted in any of the disease types they are scored on the quality and structure of the proposal. In essence, the best applications win.

In contrast to research funded at the National Institutes of Health, the DoD medical research program has some unique features. First of all, because they are working with limited pools of money, the DoD program will fund bold experiments, or ‘high-risk, high-reward’ research projects rather than a more incremental approach favored by NIH. Consequently, the military program also does not necessarily need the preliminary data required by NIH. Another unique feature of the DoD program—that also differs from NIH—is the inclusion of consumer reviewers in their research panels. Individuals with the disease under study are asked to be part of the review panel that will evaluate the grant applications.

FARE has been active in leveraging this program to expand the resources available for food allergy research. On the front end, FARE has worked with Congressional supporters to ensure that food allergy research is an eligible disease under the Peer Reviewed Medical Research Program. After the program is funded, FARE was asked by the DoD to recommend candidates to be consumer advisors on the review panels. And finally, FARE rallies the food allergy research community to submit applications and increase the odds that more food allergy projects will have funding support.

This article was originally published in the Summer 2014 issue of FARE’s Food Allergy News. Read more of the newsletter here.

Northwestern Athletics Welcomes Families Managing Peanut and Tree Nut Allergies

Polisky_MikeA food allergy dad got the ball rolling with a phone call and one request: could Northwestern consider having a nut-free game so that his son could attend a game? Northwestern decided to not only grant this one request, but to do something that hasn’t been attempted by a college athletics program to date: go peanut and tree nut free for many games in multiple sports during the year, offering students and fans with nut allergies plenty of opportunities to attend a game and cheer on the Wildcats.

To learn more about what it took to go nut-free at Northwestern, FARE interviewed Mike Polisky, Deputy Director of Athletics – External Affairs at Northwestern Athletics. Download this flyer to view the game schedule..

1. Why did Northwestern decide to go “all in” this season?

It all started with a simple phone call last year. We were contacted by the father of a Northwestern student who is affected by these types of allergies. The student is a big sports fan, like so many, but he wouldn’t be able to attend a game at Ryan Field or Welsh-Ryan Arena because of those allergy concerns. The father wanted to know if there was a way for us to make that happen for his son. After doing our research and coming to a better understanding of the impact of tree nut and peanut allergies on tens of thousands of people who cannot participate, it made sense to take the next step.

We decided to break up our seasons to create more opportunities for families to attend Northwestern games in a safe environment. Ryan Field will be completely peanut and tree nut free for three football games and Welsh-Ryan Arena will be that same way for close to 30 events leading up to the Big Ten opener for the men’s basketball team.

2. What changes needed to be made in order to accommodate the change?

We had to undergo a systemic change from the top down in order to change the way we do things on game day. From Northwestern President Morton Schapiro, to Vice President for Athletics and Recreation, Jim Phillips, to our ushers and security personnel, to our concessionaire partner, Sodexo, everyone needed to be fully on board with this idea, and they have been. Everyone needed to accept responsibility and support one another, and to this point, it’s been fantastic.

3. What were some major challenges in going nut-free?

I think that the biggest challenge was in understanding the layers involved. The logistics are so broad; you have to think about the product you have in place already, the aggressive cleaning measures that need to be done and the unseen areas affected like cooking oil and candies. It’s been important for us to understand all of the places that people are impacted.

4. What has the feedback been like from fans and the community?

The response we’ve seen and heard has been incredibly positive. After we decided to operate peanut and tree-nut free for one football game last fall, we received overwhelming support from all across the country. Even people who weren’t able to be in Evanston that day were thanking us for raising awareness on a national level. That encouragement only strengthened our resolve to create increased opportunities and inspired us to do even more.

5. Any advice for other schools or teams that may add nut-free games?

We’re able to help people attend a game who otherwise may not be able to do so because of severe peanut and tree nut allergies. It’s something that so many people take for granted, and if your team is in a position to provide a memorable experience, why wouldn’t you?

Northwestern is offering football and basketball tickets for their nut free games at a 15 percent discount! Northwestern also will not serve peanuts at Welsh-Ryan Arena for 10 men’s and six women’s basketball games, all 18 home volleyball matches and three wrestling events. For complete schedules or to order online, visit NUsports.com or Download this flyer

Back-to-School Homework for Food Allergy Parents

busFor some parents, sending a child with life-threatening food allergies off to school can feel like an overwhelming task, especially if the child is entering a new school or attending for the first time. FARE has many resources on our website’s “Managing Food Allergies at School” section, but there are a few key tasks for food allergy parents to complete before the school year starts.

Assignment #1: Get your paperwork in order

FARE’s Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Emergency Care Plan should be on file for every student with food allergies. It outlines treatment recommended treatment in case of an allergic reaction, includes emergency contact numbers and is signed by the student’s physician.

Students with food allergies should also have a written management plan, such as a 504 Plan, in place. A 504 Plan (named for Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973) is a plan that outlines the accommodations, aids or services that a student with a disability needs in order to use, and fully participate in, a free and appropriate public education (FAPE).

Assignment #2: Make your shopping list

Along with new sneakers and a lunchbox, add medical identification jewelry to your Back-to-School shopping list. Wearing medical identification at all times can help give you peace of mind that you are prepared should a life-threatening reaction occur. We have partnered with the MedicAlert Foundation to launch the “MyVoice” program, designed to help protect individuals with food allergies with life-saving services. The MyVoice program provides a 10 percent discount on MedicAlert memberships as well as $10 off a medical identification bracelet for both adults and children. Learn more on the MedicAlert website.

You can also purchase Allergy Caution Labels from Name Bubbles to  label items that travel to and from your house with identification and emergency contact information. Through FARE’s partnership with the company, they will be donating 20% of all allergy product purchases to FARE, with a minimum donation of $10,000 for 2014. Create your personalized labels on the Name Bubbles website

Assignment #3: Talk to your team

Putting a written management plan in place requires communication and coordination with many school staff members, such as administrators, school nurses, food service staff, and your allergist or other doctor.

Teachers are key partners in keeping children with food allergies safe and included at school. Before the first day of school, meet with the teacher to discuss the child’s emergency care and management plans. You can also provide him/her with a copy of FARE’s Teacher’s Checklist, which has 10 basic tips for teachers who have students with food allergies, such as using non-food incentives and having rapid access to epinephrine auto-injectors.

Assignment #4: Send education and awareness posters to your school

Back to School season is a great opportunity to take action and work with your local schools to educate the school community about the serious nature of food allergies. This year, with your $25 donation to our poster drive, we will send three premium posters to the school or community building of your choice to help educate and raise awareness about food allergies. This is a simple way you can provide your school with resources and make a difference!

Assignment #5: Have a family meeting

Talking to your child and explaining or reinforcing some basic safety precautions can help them feel confident entering a new school year. While each child is different, you can focus on a few things they can do each day at school, such as:

  • Knowing where their epinephrine is stored or carrying it with them at all times.
  • Always wearing their medical identification bracelet.
  • Only eating the food you have packed or approved as safe for them.
  • Telling an adult immediately if they feel sick.

In addition to the information provided here, there is a wealth of information about how to successfully manage food allergies at school on FARE’s website, including national guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), a letter from FARE to school leaders, and information about school access to epinephrine.

A School Nurse’s Perspective on How to Keep your Child With Food Allergy Safe at School

cathyowensby Cathy Owens, RN, M.Ed, NCSN, ERSN

All schools have a duty to provide a safe environment for children and to act appropriately in an emergency.  We know that nearly six million children have a food allergy-which equates to approximately two per classroom! Additionally, according to the CDC, food allergies have dramatically increased since 1997 and many individuals do not have their epinephrine with them at all times.  So, schools need to be prepared to handle allergic reactions-not only in the child with a known allergy, but with those who have not yet been diagnosed.

My passion and advocacy for protecting students with food allergies in school came about because I had to make a decision to give a student another student’s epinephrine auto-injector when the student was suffering from severe anaphylaxis and paramedics had not yet arrived and unfortunately, he had no previous history of anaphylaxis so had no medication at school. Because of my actions, he was able to be safely transported to the hospital and recovered but it did shed light on the fact that without epinephrine available to any student suffering from anaphylaxis, the outcome could be much different.

As a result, California passed a law allowing schools to stock epinephrine for undiagnosed cases of anaphylaxis, but that is not enough because it doesn’t protect all the children, since schools have a choice.  A law, Senate Bill 1266, is now pending that will require epinephrine to be stocked in all schools. But it is important for parents and schools to partner together to reduce the risk of exposure and to ensure quick access to epinephrine.

Parents should work collaboratively with their school nurse, the cafeteria staff, administration and teaching staff with regards to classroom activities involving food (e.g. no peanut products should ever be used for classroom projects or snacks) as well as developing a plan for the cafeteria. Having an identified table for students to be able to sit at is an option or using paper placemats as a means to protect the child’s food from surface contamination and to identify it as a ‘safe zone’ for their food is another option.

Storage and access to the epinephrine should also be discussed. It should be easily accessible (if in a locked cabinet, all staff needs to have a key to the cabinet so critical seconds are not lost waiting for someone to unlock the cabinet. If the student carries their epinephrine, a plan needs to be in place as to who knows where it is and is the backpack with the student at all times. Additionally, field trips and other activities away from the classroom/health office (where the epinephrine is stored) need to be discussed and a plan needs to be developed.

Besides ensuring a safe classroom/cafeteria and storage issues, training of staff is a critical piece of the plan. Staff should be trained on the use of the epinephrine as well as signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis.  An individualized plan such as a 504 plan should be in place for all students with a known food allergy.

In conclusion, parents should work together with their schools and school nurse to develop a plan for a safe environment and also advocate for standing orders for epinephrine! It is important to remember that there is no absolute contraindication for giving epinephrine when someone is having breathing difficulties and most importantly, a child’s life may be saved!

Photo credit: Allergic Living