How parents can protect their kids who have food allergies at school

About two kids in every classroom have a food allergy so an Arizona doctor has tips on how parents can keep their children safe.
Published: Aug. 18, 2023 at 7:22 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — One in 13 children in the U.S. have some type of food allergy, which is roughly two students per classroom, according to the CDC. For some children, these allergies are severe and even life-threatening, which can make lunch or snack time at school a challenge. “It’s really scary,” said Hailee Autrey. The mother of four has two children with a peanut allergy. They are 6-year-old Gibson and 2-year-old Lachlan. “I have to have an EpiPen with me at all times,” she said.

Gibson is in first grade and has the option to sit at a nut-free table during lunch. Autrey said his teacher is well-aware of her son’s allergy and the school nurse always keeps an EpiPen on hand. But this mom also wants her boys to advocate for themselves. “Talking to your kids just about listening to their bodies and speaking up when they feel like something’s not right,” said Autrey. Exposure to peanuts could cause her children to throw up, break out in hives, and swell their lips.

Dr. Cindy Salm Bauer is the section chief of allergy and immunology at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. She explains past reactions can’t predict future ones and anaphylaxis does happen in some cases. “Even if their prior ingestion only caused a couple of hives, the next one could be worse or vice versa, making it very scary and difficult,” she said.

Dr. Bauer said allergies to milk, soy, egg, wheat, finfish, shellfish, peanut, tree nut and sesame continue to grow in prevalence and can impact anyone, with or without a family history. She suggests parents introduce potential allergens to their children as early as 4 and 6 months old. “We recommend that per families cultures and preferences that foods one at a time be introduced and that you simply don’t delay or avoid the major allergens,” said Dr. Bauer.

Dr. Bauer said the message here is to be prepared and communicate with your student’s school so a safety plan can be put in place that includes teachers and a school nurse.

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