« A Letter to Class Parents About Food Allergies | Main | Food Safety Symposium Includes Food Allergies »

September 19, 2006

Communication is the Key

Education is key to protecting kids
by Jennifer Decker
Staff Reporter for the County Press

Awareness about food allergies among parents and caregivers can be the difference between life and death for some children.

While frequent reports of peanut allergies in children are in the news, Dr. Pacita Tanhehco of the Asthma, Allergy and Immunology Center in Lapeer said they can be severe in nature, though she hasn't heard of any local cases. She also did not know why allergies seem to be on the increase in children—especially to peanuts.

Many allergies are genetically based, Tanhehco explained. Therefore, getting a new patient's medical history is crucial. Symptom-wise, allergies can cause hives, vomiting, and diarrhea, to name a few.

"Environmentally, people should close their windows during high humidity and when outside be careful," said Tanhehco.

She added those with allergies should carry an injector.

Local school districts take precautions for students whenever necessary in an effort to accommodate them.

At Orchard Primary School in Almont, staff there have taken a pro-active approach to handling student allergies, principal Roger Pauley said.

Tuesday was the first day the school used a former office space to accommodate five students with food allergies. Pauley said the room is run as a "special restaurant" so the students who eat there don't feel ostracized from those without allergies. Before the designated "special restaurant," which Pauley said the school is trying out on a trial basis, two lunchroom tables were designated as peanut free.

Currently, the list Orchard Primary has distributed to staff include 33 different allergic reactions are listed, Pauley added. Those allergies range from Kool-Aid, shaving cream, hand sanitizer, grass, weeds, pollen, peanuts, milk, bee stings, Latex, chocolate, soybeans, and pets, to name a few.

For the first time ever, Barb Klocko, principal of Weston Elementary School in Imlay City, has four students with peanut allergies. "We're working on a food allergy plan based on recommendations from the doctor. Whatever we can do—we'll do," Klocko said. "In the classroom, you're looking at birthday treats (possibly containing peanuts). In the lunchroom, you have your standard peanut butter and jelly sandwiches."

Imlay City School Superintendent Tim Edwards said information is being gathered for a plan at Weston. In the past, such allergy issues have been handled on an individual basis.

Dryden School Superintendent Tom Goulette also said educators there are handling student allergies on a case-by-case basis.

"We sit down with parents and students and come up with a plan," Goulette said. "We have to provide an appropriate educational environment."

At Mayfield Elementary School in the Lapeer Community Schools, Principal Jim Whitlock said he's not aware of any problems with student allergies.

"It's a common sense way of dealing with it," Whitlock said. "If there's a problem—we're willing to work with people."

At Maple Grove Elementary School in Lapeer Township, Principal Elaine Loughead said a new point of sales system makes for much efficiency and the daily lunch line goes much smoother.Ô"We don't prepare food differently," Loughead said. "We give students choices. We give students choices and punch their name into a point of sales system. It comes up if they have an allergy to what they're purchasing. What's also good is when students get free or reduced lunches, that comes up on the system too."


Posted by David at September 19, 2006 9:47 AM