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Protecting Our Food Allergic Children (Part II)

Part II of Protecting Our Food Allergic Children. Offers suggestions for parents on educating others.

Advocating for a food allergic child at their school may be challenging at times. Eleanor Garrow, vice president of education and outreach for the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) says parents should work towards cooperation with the school to educate staff and other parents about food allergies. Garrow gave me some suggestions on how to educate others.

FAAN's “Be a PAL (Protect A Life)” program is to teach students how to protect their friends from having an allergic reaction. Students learn to be a hero by watching out for their food allergic friends. Schools support these heroes by offering recognition to participants. Additionally, Be a PAL offers a specialized Girl Scout badge program, rewarding them with a badge for learning about food allergies and completing badge specific tasks.

Parents whose children are not allergic sometimes resist these programs. Garrow tells allergy parents to be patient if other parents do not understand or empathize with their child’s allergy issues. “Tell them, if this was your child and this could happen to them, how would they feel?” Garrow says the tactic often works. She suggests approaching the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) about holding an informative meeting for other parents. “Do a presentation. Show pictures, whatever it takes.” The goal is to educate. FAAN offers free PowerPoint presentations on their website.

Emotional stress for food allergic children results in symptoms of anxiety and depression. Children are afraid of what will happen if they come in contact with an allergen. Parents should encourage the school pyschologist to offer a support group for these children. If children feel protected and understood they will have the confidence to manage their food allergies effectively.

Parents can educate their children at home about managing their food allergies. Garrow says to teach them to never share food and wash hands before eating. She urges that children need to be taught to be open and honest with their peers. They should never feel ashamed or fearful of telling someone that they may be having a reaction. Teaching the proper use of medications such as Epinephrine (EpiPen) is important and empowering.

Bullying at school due to food allergies is becoming an issue for many food allergic children and their parents. Long Island schools should be able to
accommodate these children. They should not be socially isolated or left to
feel unsafe in school. The way to help a school achieve these measures is to educate them.  

There are tools out there to assist parents of food allergic children. For details, see FAAN’s website at https://www.foodallergy.org with links for school presentations, "Be a Pal" and "Be a Pal Patch Program for
Girl Scout Council."

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Washington August 30, 2012 at 08:24 PM
My children don't have food allergies, but I am very empathetic and will always select snacks or modify birthday treats so that everyone who is present can enjoy. I think most parents think this way and there are just a few bad apples out there who are insensitive and attract a lot of attention. Just let us know and we'll help!
Yankee Man September 03, 2012 at 01:14 AM
I recieved a letter home from my sons new school saying that no peanut products should be broiught to school for snack or lunch. I am sensitive to this issue,but my kid likes peanut and jelly sandwiches. He cant have his favorite food now? If a child was allegenic to grass would they allow kids to go outside at recess. I am wrond here
patti vaccaro September 03, 2012 at 02:48 AM
Yum. Peanut Butter and Jelly is a great snack. I know how hard it is to reason with a child to give up something they love to eat for lunch especially a picky eater that will only eat PB and J. Its just one more battle that you have to add onto like getting them to eat veggies at dinner. Who needs that right? Well for some reason and the experts don't know why there are and more children developing peanut allergies then when we were kids. What they do know is the danger and now the schools are being educated on it as well. Its not like having an allergy to hay fever where you can take a pill to help the teary eyes and runny nose or eating a food that gives you hives and you take some benadryl and they go away. This is such a nasty allergy that even an Epipen only buys you time and hope your child makes it to the hospital in time A lot of parents feel the way you do until it happens to them and there lives change where they have to read every label in the grocery store. Tell the child they cant eat any of the food at birthday parties only the food there parent brings with them or pull the chef or cook out of the kitchen at a restaurant to go through the menu. As a parent your mind is never at ease ever, even when there at school away from your protection. So im truly sorry your son cant have his favorite lunch at school and thank you for potentially saving a childs life.
renee k September 11, 2012 at 01:54 AM
well said! when its a life-threatening issue, we need to be supportive and break out of the "me, me" mentality we all too often fall into (and I admit to being guilty here as well). no, its not very convienient and its challenging to address with our children, but its a serious issue that threatens the life of some of our kids. that should trump all. period.
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