BoardBuzz wants to alert readers to an important event that took place this week: Food Allergy Awareness Week (FAAW). According to the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN), twelve million Americans have food allergies, including one in every 17 children under the age of three. Additionally, the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) statistics show that the prevalence of children with food allergies rose 18 percent between 1997 and 2007, although causes are still unknown.
However, on Wednesday, May 11, a New York Times articleportrayed a new study casting doubts on many reports of food allergies. According to the study, only about 8 percent of children and less than 5 percent of adults are food allergic; yet about 30 percent of the population believe they have food allergies. The study’s author, Dr. March Reidl, believes that there are several reasons for that disparity including that children who had food allergies may not have them as adults. Another possible reason for such high reported numbers of food allergies is that some people think they have a food allergy when they really just have a food intolerance, such as headaches when they drink red wine. Still, nowadays, many schools have kids who are truly food allergic and may have staff with the same condition as well. And a food allergy can strike any person, at any age, unexpectedly.
It is hard to fully comprehend a food allergy if you’re not a victim of it. Food is not only one of the main mechanisms for survival and good health, in western societies like ours, it is usually associated with pleasure (we like to eat foods and they can provide a “good feeling”) and often helps celebrate a special occasion. So can you imagine when certain foods become your enemy, and it’s a matter between life and death? Can you think of yourself looking at a yummy piece of cake, for instance, and not being able to eat it because you don’t know whether or not it will harm or even kill you or going out to a restaurant and being fearful of cross-contamination
Yes, living with life-threatening food allergies can be pretty difficult.
That’s why schools should make those with food allergies feel welcomed and secure. Schools play an essential role in keeping students and staff well informed of food allergies because millions of people eat one or more meals at school everyday. And BoardBuzz believes food allergies can be well managed within schools. This includes educating those who do not have food allergies about the seriousness of this medical condition and not isolating those with food allergies, but rather helping them identify potential allergens and handle their condition well. In addition, it is of utmost importance that schools have emergency plans in place to deal with students who have food allergies and those who might unexpectedly become allergic to a certain food. For these actions to be successful, schools need to have sound food allergy policies and practices.
NSBA is currently developing a food allergy policy guide to help school leaders develop a comprehensive food allergy policy. And, sometime in the fall, NSBAwill have a webcast featuring school leaders, nurses and students who have successfully worked together to address this issue within their school district, so stay tuned!
What are your schools doing to help children and staff manage food allergies? Leave us a comment.