Parents weigh in on school strategies for food allergies

By Laura Mize • Published: June 24th, 2014
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

For children with food allergies, the world can be a scary place.

Taking care to avoid foods, even traces of foods, that could cause a reaction may lead to constant anxiety. Allergic kids and their families may avoid social activities in the name of safety and see eating out as a daring move.

Then there’s school, with hundreds of children who could be toting edible dangers in bookbags, or unknowingly whip out a peanut butter sandwich right next to the nut-allergic girl in the lunchroom.

What’s a parent to do? As food allergies become increasingly common, many educators also are grappling with how to best to protect the students who have them. Thanks to a national survey of parents conducted by University of Michigan researchers, policymakers and educators now have a bit more direction.

The survey asked parents about potential school measures for protecting kids who are allergic to nuts. Results showed parents of kids with nut allergies, and those with non-allergic kids, favored a variety of approaches.

Perhaps surprisingly, most parents of nut-allergic kids did not support schoolwide bans on foods with nuts. They also don’t like the idea of special seating areas at lunchtime for kids with nut allergies.

The most popular strategy, which 61 percent of parents backed, restricts the foods brought into classes with a child who is allergic to nuts. Food with nuts would be prohibited for these classes.

Nearly half of all the parents wanted to ban food brought from home for special school events. This could help keep classrooms nut-free and prevent allergic kids from being excluded because they can’t eat the special treats.

In addition to focusing on trigger foods, the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends schools have plans for dealing with allergic reactions and offer special help for each child with a food allergy.