Allergies and schools: What you need know

Allergies and schools: What you need know



Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

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SALT LAKE CITY -- The number of school age children with severe allergies is rising.

The results of a telephone survey published in the "Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology," the rate of just peanut allergies alone in children more than tripled from 1997 to 2008. Other types of allergies show similar though somewhat less dramatic increases.

The level of concern for parents and schools alike is rising as well.

Bees and wasps on the playground, latex in the halls and classrooms, peanuts and other food in the classroom and cafeteria, any of these and a wide number of other things could pose a threat for students with allergies.


With potential outcomes ranging from minor discomfort to life-threating anaphylaxis, how parents and schools address this will have lifesaving consequences.

With potential outcomes ranging from minor discomfort to life-threating anaphylaxis, how parents and schools address this will have lifesaving consequences.

The statistics are irrelevant if your child is one of the growing numbers affected. What is relevant? The concrete steps needed both at home and at school needed to protect your child.

Your medical provider will be your best source for information regarding how to accommodate your child’s condition. Follow their recommendations.

Accommodations at home are under your control. School can be a frightening prospect for parents of and kids with severe allergies. Sending a child with severe allergies to school requires a partnership. Communication, cooperation and planning with the school they will attend.

Your first step should be to contact your child’s school and arrange a meeting with the school administration and staff to discuss your child’s specific needs. Ask if your school has a written plan and if so request a copy.

Anne Munoz-Furlong, founder and chief executive officer of the Food Allergies & Anaphylaxis Network told USA Today, "Some schools have very comprehensive plans — they've been working with food allergies for a long time — and others are just getting started and they don't know what to do."

Be prepared to provide the instructions for and medication that your child may need, this could include oral medication, inhaler or possibly an Epinephrine Auto injector, an EpiPen. Ask the school to provide training for the staff in the use of it.

In some cases your student could need a 504 plan. Named for the section of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 504 plans provide a frame work for coloration between parents, medical providers, schools and other interested parties. Discuss this possibility with your school.

Among the issues 504 Plans for students with severe allergies should address include: Where anaphylaxis medications will be stored, where and when such students will eat lunches and snacks, whether allergens will be permitted on the school campus, and if so, where, and how teachers, nurses, and other school personnel will be trained in recognition and emergency response protocol.

The 504 plan should clearly define the role of the parent or guardian and the age appropriate self-care responsibilities of the student, as well.


Be prepared to provide the instructions for and medication that your child may need, this could include oral medication, inhaler or possibly an Epinephrine Auto injector, an EpiPen.

Schools, nationally and locally, are taking steps. In many cases, common allergens like latex have been banned from school campuses. In some cases, common food allergens like peanuts have been banned, as well. However, schools and school officials are only one part of this equation.

The school community has a part to play as well. You school may notify you that your school has a student with a severe allergy. They may ask that you avoid sending to school specific items. Please help by complying. A peanut butter sandwich can be as dangerous to a student with a severe peanut allergy as a gun.

Communication is the key here.

If you are a parent of a student with a severe allergy, talk to your school before the student starts school, then regularly thereafter. Schools are charged with the safety of your child and are ready, willing and largely able, they simply need the information.

For more information on 504 plans see the About.com article “Food Allergies in Schools: Do You Need a 504 Plan for a Food Allergy?”

Guy is a longtime educator, having taught and coached tennis and swimming. He is school safety and security administrator for the Bonneville School District in Idaho Falls, Idaho. Guy has been married for 26 years and has three children.

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Guy Bliesner

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