Food allergies are all around us. An estimated 8% (approximately 2 million) of children in the US are affected by one or more food allergies. Some of the most common food allures are The most common food allergies are peanuts, tree nuts, ﬁsh and shellﬁsh, milk, eggs, soy, and wheat. However, these ingredients are not always obvious on packaged products.
The goal for children with food allergies is complete avoidance with the offending agent, but in spite of everyone’s best efforts, accidental exposure sometimes occurs. Allergic reactions can result from ingesting or inhaling the allergen and from skin contact with the allergen. The onset of reaction can occur rapidly or it may be delayed.
Proper planning and implementation can minimize and often eliminate the risk of an allergic child’s exposure to a food allergen. The child’s parents, the Director, Classroom Teachers, Chef, and even classmates can all contribute to minimizing the chances of an exposure and a potentially serious reaction.
Do your child’s caregivers know the appropriate response to a severe food (or other allergen) reaction? At Brainy Kids Place, we use a multi-step system for identiﬁcation, notiﬁcation, training, avoidance, and treatment if a child is exposed to an allergen.
Before we go over what we do to help prevent and treat exposure to allergens, let’s discuss the families’ responsibility.
- Notify the center of a child’s allergies.
- Work with the Director and/or Teacher to develop a plan that accommodates the child’s needs in the existing program.
- Provide written, medical documentation, instructions, and medications prescribed by a physician. We will have you ﬁll out an Allergy Action Plan and have it signed by your child’s physician. This plan will be kept in your child’s ﬁle as well as in the classroom and lunchroom.
- Provide properly labeled medications and replace medication after use or upon expiration.
- Review guidelines and procedures with the program staff, the child’s physician, and the child after a reaction has occurred.
- Provide a medical release after a reaction has occurred, indicating the child may return to the child care center.
- Provide current emergency contact information.
- Educate the child in the self-management of their food allergy including
- Safe and unsafe foods
- Strategies for avoiding exposure to unsafe foods
- Symptoms of allergic reactions
- How and when to tell an adult they may be having an allergic reaction
- How to read food labels (age appropriate)
So what do we at Brainy Kids Place do?
A parent reports an allergy to the director and provides any documentation from a licensed physician (as appropriate). The Director will then discuss with the parent the nature of the allergy and the implications of the child’s participation in the program. During this conversation, the parent is informed of the process for providing the child with his/her own food (i.e. snacks/lunch) and the location of the posted menu for the center.
The Director will input this information into Brightwheel and print new Allergy Alerts posted throughout the center. The information will be discussed and initialed by the instructors that work in that particular classroom, including the Chef and all Admin.
All center staff members will be trained annually in medication administration, including the use of Epi-pens and breathing treatments. Staff members may ask to review the information at any time.
- Children should not be allowed to trade or share food, beverages, or utensils.
- Children with food allergies should not eat or drink anything with unknown ingredients or known to contain allergens.
- The Director, Teacher, and Parents should discuss ﬁeld trips and special class activities to determine appropriate strategies for managing food allergies during these events. This could include parents attending the activity to offer the highest level of protection for the child.
- Children with severe food allergies will be directed to sit at a designated table where the allergen is not present (an allergen-free table). The children may be grouped with other friends that also must be at the allergen free table, or with friends who are aware of the allergy and do not pose a risk to the child with severe food allergies.
- A trained staff member should clean the designated allergen free table before the student is seated to remove any food residue that could cause a severe allergic reaction. This should be done with Quat and a clean cloth or paper towel. Quat is a disinfectant used to sanitize the center.
- If a substitute is present in the room, a staff member familiar with the child’s allergy should serve the child and make the substitute aware of all the children with food allergies in that classroom.
- The information on the child with the allergy will be copied and printed and kept in the notebook and/or clipboard within each classroom. The information printed will contain the symptoms and treatment for the speciﬁc child.
- Prescribed emergency medications for each child will be kept in the container labeled First Aid/Emergency Medications in each classroom.
- The expiration dates of all emergency medications should be periodically reviewed.
- If an allergic reaction occurs, the staff member will act immediately, according to the provided information.
- The trained staff member will administer the prescribed emergency medications according to the physician’s directions at the ﬁrst sign of an allergic reaction or a known exposure to the allergen.
- After emergency medications are administered, call 911.
- After EMS is notiﬁed staff will notify the child’s parents that EMS has been called.
- If EMS has arrived to transport the child before the parents arrive, an administrator will accompany the child to the hospital and will remain there until parents arrive.