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What role can schools play in safeguarding children with food allergies?

January 26, 2011|By Mary Forgione, Tribune Health

Food allergies among children require parents to be vigilant about what their kids eat. But schools struggle to evaluate how far rules and laws should go in keeping children from eating something that could trigger a fatal allergy attack.

A Chicago Tribune story describes the community reaction after a seventh-grader died from something she ate at a school party. It says:

"Some parents and health officials say epinephrine auto-injectors should be as common in schools as defibrillators are, so immediate help would be available to any student suffering anaphylaxis, the severe allergic reaction that can close off breathing tubes and send the body into shock. But school districts, grappling with financial constraints and declining test scores, wonder how much more they can take on, and whether they're even capable of making emergency medical decisions in such cases."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 1 in 25 children are affected by food allergies, many of them to multiple types of food, and the numbers keep increasing. Here's more information from the CDC and some tips for parents from the International Food Information Council Foundation.

And then there's the matter of diagnosing food allergies in children. In December, new guidelines in how to test kids were urged by a consortium of experts led by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. This story explains the recommended tests.

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