According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, allergies affect an estimated 8% of children in the United States. If you run a school, you likely already have an extensive plan in place to protect students with allergies. But there may be circumstances you haven’t considered that could throw a wrench into your carefully formulated plan. Here, Church Mutual outlines a few of those situations—and how to continue to keep your students safe.
You never know when a child may encounter an emergency situation—and your school nurse or health room aide may not be available. You should enlist a qualified individual certified in first aid training to train all staff in how to recognize the signs of anaphylaxis and use an epinephrine pen (EpiPen) to treat an emergency. This includes substitute teachers and temporary supervisors.
Cross-contamination in the cafeteria
You may believe that the food you provide for students with allergies is completely safe. However, allergic reactions arise not only from the food itself, but also from the way that food is cooked, and whether that food has come in contact with any allergens in the kitchen. If students with allergies will be eating food prepared in your kitchen, you must establish a clear policy for how staff should use cooking utensils to keep students safe.
Food treats in the classroom
Teachers often use a reward system to encourage good behavior or hard work in the classroom. However, offering food as a reward can cause multiple problems. In a worst-case scenario, a child will accept and eat a food that they don’t realize contains an allergen and suffer a potentially life-threatening reaction. Even when the child doesn’t accept the food, they then feel left out of classroom activities. A better option is to offer non-food incentives, such as special privileges, pencils, stickers, bouncy balls or bookmarks.
Food in the curriculum
On the surface, it can seem like a good idea to use food in the curriculum for arts, crafts, science or math. But for students who have particularly sensitive allergies, skin contact with the allergens can cause a reaction. Even empty egg cartons can pose a threat to students who have egg allergies. If there are students in your classroom who have food allergens, be very careful about the supplies you use.
The key to a successful allergy plan in a school is communication—between parents, teachers, students, administrators and other staff members. The more these individuals communicate, the more likely they will be to address all aspects of safety. For more information about risk control in your school, visit cmregent.com or contact Sharon Orr at (717) 790-2324 or firstname.lastname@example.org.