ATLANTA (AP) - The federal government is issuing its first guidelines to
schools on how to protect children with food allergies.
The voluntary guidelines call on schools to take such steps as restricting
nuts, shellfish or other foods that can cause allergic reactions, and make
sure emergency allergy medicine - like EpiPens - are available.
About 15 states - and numerous individual schools or school districts -
already have policies of their own. “The need is here” for a more
comprehensive, standardized way for schools to deal with this issue, said
Dr. Wayne Giles, who oversaw development of the advice for the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention.
Food allergies are a growing concern. A recent CDC survey estimated that
about 1 in 20 U.S. children have food allergies - a 50 percent increase from
the late 1990s. Experts aren’t sure why cases are rising. Many food
allergies are mild and something children grow out of. But severe cases may
cause anaphylactic shock or even death from eating, say, a peanut.
The guidelines released Wednesday were required by a 2011 federal law.
Peanuts, tree nuts, milk and shellfish are among the food that most often
most trigger reactions. But experts say more than 170 foods are known to
The new advice call for schools to do such things as:
-Identify children with food allergies.
-Have a plan to prevent exposures and manage any reactions.
-Train teachers or others how to use medicines like epinephrine injectors,
or have medical staff to do the job.
-Plan parties or field trips free of foods that might cause a reaction; and
designate someone to carry epinephrine.
-Make sure classroom activities are inclusive.
For example, don’t use Peanut M&M’s in a counting lesson, said John Lehr,
chief executive of an advocacy group that worked on the guidelines, Food
Allergy Research & Education (FARE).
Carolyn Duff, president of the National Association of School Nurses, which
worked on the guidelines, said many schools may not have policies on food
allergies. “And if they do, maybe the policies aren’t really comprehensive,”
U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey, a New York Democrat who worked on the law that led to
the guidelines, said in a statement that they are a big step toward giving
parents “the confidence that their children will stay safe and healthy at