Tuesday, August 16, 2011

New Food Allergy Law in Illinois Affects Schools and Epinephrine

I was happy to see this new law that allows schools to stock epinephrine autoinjectors and administer them to students having an allergic reaction. The law will protect students who don't have their own, such as students who are undiagnosed and students who for whatever reason, don't have an auto-injector at their disposal.

Despite this law, though, I'm still troubled because an epinephrine autoinjector isn't a guarantee of reversing a reaction once it starts. For a severely allergic person, an allergic reaction is like a runaway train. No one knows how fast it will move or how far it will go. What I'd like to see is more proactivity with regard to preventing allergic reactions in schools.

That means less food in the classroom, less food-focused events and less push back from parents who demand that cupcakes in the classroom are a more important than anything.

Every student has a right to an education, to their health and to a safe school environment. Yes, epinephrine in schools is a huge help and this law will save lives. Many adults now develop allergies later in life, so even teachers or other school staff may personally benefit from access to epinephrine. But life-saving medication only one piece of the puzzle. Let's stop the allergic reactions from happening in the first place.

It's relatively easy to do. But lately I'm hearing about so much push back, push back, push back. I'm sorry you feel your child will "suffer" without frequent cupcake consumption in the classroom or restaurant food for parties. But these items are not part of the curriculum and frankly, it's gone way too far. I have little memory of constant food being pushed my way when I was in school. When did we decide that kids need to eat every 15 minutes or they will "suffer"?

With back-to-school time headed our way (and many across the country already in school) I've heard so many stories of schools pushing back with regard to making classrooms safer. And I'm talking reasonable requests like limiting the number and type of snacks in the classroom and making parties less about food and more about activities. I'm talking schools refusing to supply an allergic student with a safer lunch table that will allow them to have a meal without threat of allergic reaction. No peanut bans, no food bans, just safe areas to eat and learn. That's what will prevent a reaction. And yet, schools don't want to do it. Why?

It's time for schools to stop letting peanut butter, milk or any food become more important that education or kids' health. Teachers have enough to worry about and school nurses have never been in such short supply. Let's make it easier on everyone by limiting food in the classroom and focusing on learning. School should be about learning and not eating outside of meal times. Let's try prevention first, treatment with epinephrine, second.

18 comments:

Thanita said...

This was my exact thought when I saw the bill passed. Great post!

Melissa said...

Well said!

Julie said...

a hearty AMEN from this Mama!!! I am thanful our school CARES about allergies and does what is needed to protect them.

Christie said...

Fantastic post! I could not agree more about cutting food out of the class rooms. All children deserve the right to a safe learning environment.

Elizabeth Goldenberg said...

You make a lot of great points, Jenny. Our school allergy policies were revised last year, and for the first time, a form will be passed out to all parents at the start of school to opt in or out of participating in food brought into the classroom. Our principal realized it should be permission based, and he suspects that the majority of parents will opt out (based on all the complaints he received about calories, sugar, etc). He also anticipates that parents will stop bringing in treats, since it won't be as gratifying. In the meantime, our allergic children won't be the only ones not eating the food.

Col said...

Agree, agree, agree!! Great article.

dannyscotland said...

ABSOLUTELY!!!!!

Beth H. said...

I LOVE this post...well said! So true that school should be about learning, and not about all the food that people bring in. What would doctors say about the constant supply of treats, not healthy snacks, that happen everyday in the schools? How is this adding to the obesity epidemic? My daughter is starting full day school in the fall, and I'm busy talking with the school to get everything safe for her.

Gina Clowes said...

Bravo Jenny! Well said.
35% of American children are overweight or obese. Let's find a healthier way to celebrate.

laura said...

I completely agree. My kids go to a small, private school and classroom celebrations seem to be a daily event, at times. The amount of snacks that are "served" or "offered" at times is staggering. I don't remember this at all when we were children. Times really have changed - and not for the better I'm afraid.

Beth H said...

I LOVE this post...couldn't agree more. School should be about learning, and not about constant snacks all day long. Although, I would hardly call them snacks, and more like treats. I wonder what doctors think about all these treats in school. I would imagine it isn't helping the obesity epidemic! My daughter was in a camp-like class this summer for 2 hours, and they even served a snack during that. Really? A child can't go 2 hours without a "treat?"

Anonymous said...

Wonderful post. You'd think from a liability standpoint alone schools would have rethought homebaked goods by now. How DO they get away with serving stuff made in private homes under who knows what type of sanitary conditions?

My child's district nurse told me that children learn better using hands on techniques (justifying the use of food in oral presentation inside the classroom). I asked her if she felt the same way if the particular food would harm a fellow student...and she basically shrugged & dismissed any safety concerns we had. She also defending designer coffee drinks in the classroom stating that some teachers are "calcium deficient." There needs to be federal food allergy guidelines because these schools aren't going to do anything on their own. It's shameful.

Anonymous said...

In school I am constantly worried about having an allergic reaction. People are always eating food around me and I cannot focus on what the teacher is saying, only the people eating. The classrooms at my school are suppose to be nut free but no one listens or cares eventhe teachers. I just wish people would understand. Thank you for all that you do.

Nut free Dad said...

Good post. My wife is very proactive with the school my daughter attends and they are completely understanding and do what they can to provide a safe environment for her during those times that there is a "need" for food in the classroom and during the lunch period she is in the cafeteria. What we still don't understand is why the "need" for all the birthday snacks, holiday snacks and such. Shouldn't part of the education be nutritional? How many cupcakes and cookies do kids need outside of what they get at home? We have run into parents who can't believe that we are so hands on with "that allergy". Yes, yes I know your kid can handle his mold allergy with runny nose and itchy eyes. Oh, he may even get a little phlegm as a result...my bad. I guess an anaphylaxis reaction due to your sons "need" to eat his Reese's is of little concern. Our next door neighbor has even "joked" to other neighbors that she wants to give our daughter something with peanuts in it because she thinks it's way over diagnosed and doesn't believe it. And I guess I overreacted when I told those same neighbors that next time I encounter I may have to knock her teeth out because I think teeth are overrated for providing a nice smile.

Michi said...

Thank you Jenny! I had my first anaphylactic reaction when I was 31. My son (egg, PA and TNA) is only in preschool but i had a "taste" of what's to come in the next years. Had an almost flight with one mom who insisted SHE was allergic to eggs and so my son should consume eggs to rid of his allergy. then she went on to say she's a vegetarian who doesn't eat eggs. yes, this is what we're working with. people with NO compassion and not much upstairs. I did find some parents who totally understood and was super supportive.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree. My son is starting Kindergarten and I am bothered by the fact that he can't have a nut-free classroom because of the rights of the other students. I'm not asking you to control what the child brings for lunch, just to limit the amount of hazardous food being brought into the classroom.

Anonymous said...

As a first grade teacher, I don't allow food treats for birthdays. I have parents donate a book to the classroom instead. We feed our brains instead of our tummies. I also do fruit, vegetables and bagels for class parties. I have always done this, nut allergy student or not.

Poker Chick said...

Here here. Our school, which is great, is also quite food based.

So I was surprised in our meeting this year when they said they had so many allergy kids they had decided it was too hard and ON THEIR OWN they had decided on their own to make birthdays and other celebrations much less food-focused and to offer something plain and boring such as fruit or pretzels to everyone as a food token, but to focus on other non-food ways to celebrate.

Um, you're asking ME if that's ok? Not a peep here, carry on. Please.

At least one school came to a logical conclusion on their own. It can happen!