Trying to educate teachers about food allergens continues to be quite challenging to say the least. For most parents the only choice is to teach the child how to live with food allergies.
At the age of two, I started taking my child to the supermarket almost daily to help him visually learn what he could and could not eat. By age four, he was reading labels and could tell if it was safe to eat the food. “Better safe than sorry” continues to be our mantra. Not eating and staying hungry until you get back home is better than eating something you aren’t sure is one hundred percent safe.
Peanut free peanut butter is something that should not be given to a child with nuts allergies until they are old enough to read labels and have reach an age when the foods they are allergic to are clearly understood.
I have always given the school Epipens for him, and since he was four he carries another set with him. For many years I felt like I was forcing him to carry an illegal weapon because there were no clear school policies regarding epinephrine. Today, thanks to the efforts of some amazing parents, all but five states in the US have passed the “self carry epinephrine legislation”. Unfortunately, the majority of food allergic kids are still not carrying their Epipen’s on them.
I am not a fan of peanut-free schools because it can paradoxically lead to a false sense of security, could affect how soon a kid learns how to manage their food allergies in the real world, and it will not help the millions of kids allergic to other foods.
“If you walk into a school and start asking teachers if they know what an Epipen is and how to use it, most will answer yes. If you don’t say a word and simply show them an Epipen the majority will ask; What is that? Unfortunately, most first aid trainings given to school personnel do not include when nor how to administer an epinephrine injection.
More efforts are needed to teach kids and school personnel about managing food allergies like adequate monitoring of meals and snacks, reading labels, clean up after food is served, creating a not sharing food policy, hand washing, and ensuring children self carry their epipens and school personnel learns how and when they need to administer the injection.
Parents need to teach their kids how to use the Epipen and ensure that they self carry the auto injectors. Don’t let your food allergic kids step outside your home unless they have the Epipen’s; not with them, but ON them. Make it clear and remind your child that carrying the epipen is a rule that can’t be broken, just like going out of the house naked is unacceptable. To ensure 100% compliance get an epicarrier. It needs to be discreet, cool looking, and comfortable.
For kids and teens, especially boys the most practical solution is an undergarment leg holster or waistband that can be discreetly concealed under their clothes. There are few options out there. I recommend the LegBuddy™ and WaistPal™ because I had to create them for my husband and son and they have been using them since 2006.
By: Marlena Delgado Coen