A food allergy is an abnormal response to a food, triggered by the body’s immune system (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease [NIAID], 2020). Symptoms of a food induced allergic reaction may range from mild to severe and may become life-threatening. Reactions vary with each person. Each exposure to a food allergen and the severity of an allergic reaction is not predictable.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that food allergies are a growing food safety and public health concern effecting approximately 8 percent of children in the United States (Gupta et al.,2018). Current estimates state that between 1 in 13 children (approximately 2 students per classroom) are affected by food allergies (Gupta et al.,2018). In addition, 1 in 25 children are now affected by food allergies (Food Allergy Research and Education, 2020) and more than 40 percent of children with food allergies have experienced a severe allergic reaction such as anaphylaxis (Gupta et al.,2018). Recent data shows that up to 25 percent of first-time anaphylactic events in children occur on school grounds (Greenhawt et al.,2018). Children spend up to 50 percent of their waking hours in school where they can come into contact with foods containing allergens. There is nocure for food allergies. Strict avoidance of food allergens and early recognition and management of allergic reactions are important measures to prevent serious health consequences (U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 2016). Therefore, school personnel should be ready to effectively manage students with food allergies. They should be prepared to recognize symptoms of an allergic reaction in both diagnosed and undiagnosed students to respond to the students’ emergency needs.
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