Is Your Child’s School Prepared to Deal with Food Allergies?
Roughly 6 million American children have at least one food allergy. It’s a phenomenon that’s increasing at an alarming rate, showing a 50 percent rise between 1997 and 2011 and a three-fold increase between 1997 and 2008 in peanut allergies alone, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Childhood allergies can range from milder sensitivity, with symptoms such as hives, vomiting and intestinal distress, to dangerous anaphylaxis, which results in constricted airways and trouble breathing and hundreds of deaths each year. Emergency treatment for anaphylaxis commonly includes epinephrine injections, delivered by an auto-injector commonly known as an epi pen.
Parents sending their food-allergic children off to school are understandably anxious. Even after filling out forms detailing their children’s conditions, they question whether school personnel are going to be diligent about providing a safe, allergen-free environment and whether they are properly prepared for accidental ingestion of allergy-causing foods by the children in their care.
Those concerns may be well-founded. Studies cited by the CDC indicate that 16 percent to 18 percent of allergic children have had reactions because of accidental ingestion of allergens while in school. In fact, 1 out of 4 in-school anaphylactic reactions happened to students who hadn’t even been previously diagnosed with a food allergy.
Providing some degree of assurance is a 2007 measure by the New Jersey legislature that includes provisions for:
- Trained designees for students needing emergency epinephrine injections when the school nurse isn’t available
- Secure but unlocked storage of epinephrine to ensure prompt availability in the event of an allergic emergency
- Availability of the school nurse or designees onsite at the school and at school-sponsored functions in case of an allergic reaction
- The establishment and dissemination of guidelines for managing food allergies in the school setting and administering emergency epinephrine
If you have concerns about the effective management of your child’s allergies in the school setting, a skilled personal injury attorney can be the difference that makes sure your voice is heard.