August 14, 2010

Remember to check out FAAN for your back-to-school needs

Just a reminder,FAAN has great resources available free of charge to help with getting your child back to school safely.

Definitely check out this site, whether your new to food allergies or have been dealing with them for years!

Posted by Ann Marie at 8:54 AM | Comments (1)

March 27, 2007

Investigation into Food Allergy Death Begins

Still wondering if it's time to refresh your training of the care givers to your children?

Here are excerpts from a sad article from ABC News Australia regarding a boy that died - apparently of a reaction to peanuts.

"Four-year-old Alex Baptist, from the Melbourne suburb of Mentone, suffered an allergy to peanuts.

He died at his kindergarten in September 2004 after eating morning tea.

The court has heard he died of symptoms consistent to a severe food allergy....

In evidence, Alex's mother Martha Baptist said a kindergarten staff member visited her at home to explain she accidentally jabbed herself with a life saving dose of adrenalin she tried to give to Alex when he became ill."


Posted by David at 8:16 AM

January 19, 2007

More Ideas for a Food Allergy Safe School Environment

Here are a few more ideas to think about for a safe school environment for your child with a severe peanut allergy.

> Establish a peanut free zone. Identify a table or two in the cafeteria or classroom where not peanut products are allowed. Mark the zone with brightly colored signs.

> Ask that no peanut butter sandwiches or other foods with peanut derivatives are sold in the cafeteria of schools where students are allergic. Other kids can pack peanut butter in their lunch, they just cannot eat in the peanut free zone.

> Have a special sticker, color, or symbol identifying a food allergy on the student's identification card. Make it eye catching enough so that a bored cafeteria worker doesnt just plop down some food item on your child's plate without thinking.

> Practice potentially unsafe situations with your child. Walk through actions that could accidently expose them to peanut products. Help he/she learn how to stay safe. It will raise his/her confidence and your level of comfort when he/she is at school.

Posted by David at 5:11 AM

January 14, 2007

Banning Peanuts Due to Allergies is Not the Answer

If you have been reading our blog for awhile, you know that we try to take a reasonable, practical approach to managing our childrens' food allergies. Every time I hear about parents demanding a "peanut free" school environment for their kids, I just shake my head.

The concept of a peanut-free school gives a false sense of security.
It leads people to believe that the because the environment is "peanutfree," no exposure could happen. And when it does happen, it leaves the adults responsible for a child a bit... well, flat footed. "Is this really a reaction? Should we give the Epi-pen? Maybe we should wait." The result could be disasterous.

How would you really enforce a ban on peanuts in a situation where other kids bring their own lunch or snack? Peanut police? I can hear the radio chatter now... "Ah, that's a 10-4 there, we've got a 10-28 here in sector 15. It's time to move in."

Further, the concept of telling another parent that they cannot feed their children peanut butter at school is just asking for a fight. You want other parents to understand your child's food allergy and want to help. Telling a parent what his/her child cannot have doesn't exactly envoke a spirit of cooperation. Your goal should be to work with the school staff to raise awareness and provide education about food allergies and the truth about anaphylaxis.

So what could you do that is a bit more practical? Take common-sense measures to minimize the risks and to keep your child from feeling isolated. Asking for peanut-free tables in classrooms and the cafeteria is a good start. Most importantly is training school staff how to recognize a reaction and how to administer the Epi-pen in an emergency. That usually starts with the school nurse.

Also, you'll need to spend some time at the school. Look for new risk factors like the peanut free table being wiped with the same cloth that was just used to wipe down the other tables. Suggest a different color cloth (bright, easy to remember) and maybe even go out and buy them for the school.

Make sure any notes sent home to parents asking them not to send food containing peanuts is written with a concerned but not panicked tone. People don't really go out of their way to help "that mom."

And please show sincere appreciation to teachers and the school's staff for their efforts. They are your eyes and ears when you can't be there. Your child's safety at school depends on them.

Posted by David at 8:00 AM | Comments (3)

January 7, 2007

A Small town takes big steps in protecting kids with food allergies

I just read the article about a small town school system in MA that adopted a new policy, spelling out procedures for dealing with students who have severe food allergies. The school officials realize that food allergies can be life-threatening and will follow plans laid out in the policy.

Here are the highlihts of the policy:

School nurses will be responsible for forming individual health care plans for students that would include warning signs, types of allergen, emergency care and medications to be administered.

The nurses and parents or guardians must sign the individual health care plans, which will include documentation from physicians spelling out the medication needed.

Teachers, coaches and those running programs after school will be provided with copies of these plans.

Parents and guardians are responsible for obtaining orders for medications, such as epinephrine, and for any changes to a student's medical protocols.

For better identification, parents must provide three copies of photographs of the students to be distributed not only to the school but to bus drivers.

Parents and guardians must also supply these students with a medical alert bracelet or chain for identification.

Other precautions include requiring students with severe food allergies to sit in the front section on school buses and having teachers notify nurses at least two weeks in advance of any field trips so arrangements may be made.

This seems like a pretty good approach and something other parents can borrow when talking to their local school officials.

Posted by David at 7:50 AM

November 14, 2006

Pushy Food Allergy Parents

I just read this article about parents working/fighting with schoold districts about accomodating their food allergic child at school. Folks, this is yet another example of how some parents go overboard in keeping their child safe. Here's some of the scoop...

The article said one parent "is on a mission to get her son’s school, a public primary school... and eventually the entire Vernon School District, to... take the necessary steps to make the district 'peanut free.'" She says, 'I would like the district to ban it... I feel it should be a district ban not just one school.'

Remember the old saying about getting big things done? How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. I feel that getting a district to ban peanuts is not productive. As you've read here on, research shows that touching traces of peanuts is unlikely to envoke a full blown anaphylactic reaction. So, if a reasonable accomodation, such as peanut free tables, is possible, then why ruffle so many feathers trying to get a district wide ban of all peanut products? It's likely to backfire on you and build more opposition to the child food allergy than support. Remember, for the non food allergic child, peanut butter is an inexpesive and nutritious food. See what another parent wrote in response to the peanut ban request...

'Instead of using valuable time that should be used on educating our children wouldn’t it make more sense to take the time to safeguard your child. If you’re worried about people not knowing, then you need to write letters and call everyone that would have contact with your child, teachers, and support staff alike and make sure they’re aware of this allergy. Your child should be given food from home rather than expecting teachers and other parents to keep your child from these foods. Your child should be wearing gloves to keep from oils being transferred to his skin or if your child is that severely allergic, he should be kept from the public schools and put into a home school environment where you will be able to monitor him 100%.'

And don't dramatize to make your point. This parent was quoted as saying, 'In our district they managed to take all the snacks and vending machines out of the schools because they were unhealthy but yet we have to fight to get something that can kill our children out, it is amazing.' We've talked about this before. If you are trying to garner support to help keep your food allergic child safe, don't use overly dramatic language or examples (remember the peanuts are like a loaded gun comment?). Instead of educating, your simply building walls and pushing other parents away by using this tactic.

Use education, not drama to build support for managing your child's food allery. Raise awareness and provide educational tools to help other people help you.

Posted by David at 4:50 PM | Comments (3)

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 9:47 AM

September 6, 2006

Increasing Food Allergy Awareness in Schools

Here's an article written in June of this year in the San Diego Union Tribune. A good discussion of how schools are addressing the emergency aspect of child food allergies.

Food allergy awareness sought
Groups want schools to be equipped for emergencies

By Helen Gao

Everywhere Andrew and Carolyn Brown take their 5-year-old son, Drew, they carry a medical rescue pack containing EpiPens and Benadryl.

Buu Luong, 13, an eighth-grader at Mann Middle School, sampled an oatmeal raisin cookie during a taste test Friday. Students also tasted sunflower seed butter. EpiPens are syringes filled with epinephrine, an emergency drug used to counteract life-threatening allergic reactions to food and insect bites. Benadryl is for treating mild reactions.

Drew suffers from peanut and tree nut allergies. When he enters kindergarten at Jerabek Elementary School in September, he will be one of about 20 children at the Scripps Ranch campus with a severe allergy.

Pointing to a rising number of children with food allergies locally and nationally, a group of about 30 San Diego parents, including the Browns, recently created The Alliance for Nut Allergic Children.

The group plans to lobby the San Diego school board Tuesday to adopt protocols districtwide to prevent and respond to food-related anaphylaxis, the medical term for a severe reaction. Advocates also are working at the state and national level on legislation to address food allergies at schools.

The parent alliance wants to ensure epinephrine is readily accessible at schools and during school-sponsored activities and that adults are trained to administer it. It also wants to remove and prohibit peanuts, tree nuts and related products from cafeteria menus, and prevent students and teachers from eating or using them for projects in classrooms.

Alliance members say they don't have a problem with children bringing peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to school, as long as the food is consumed outside the classroom.

Peanuts, a legume, and tree nuts, such as walnuts and almonds, are leading allergens. Peanut allergies doubled between 1997 and 2002, according to a study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. Other foods frequently blamed for allergic reactions are wheat, soy, milk, eggs, fish and shellfish.

Food allergies affect 12 million Americans, according to The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network, an advocacy group. They cause about 30,000 emergency room visits each year, and 150 to 200 people die annually, the network estimates.

Symptoms of anaphylactic shock include difficulty breathing, vomiting and loss of consciousness.

Andrew Brown said many people still don't understand the severity.

“When you tell them it's life or death, they think you are exaggerating,” he said. “They are think you are being overly sensitive because it's your child.”

That may be changing.

A bill pending in Congress calls for the federal government to develop guidelines for managing the risks of allergies and anaphylaxis in schools.

The West Coast Allergy and Asthma Network, a Pleasanton-based nonprofit group, is working on state legislation to ensure all schools carry epinephrine, as well as nebulizers and albuterol, which treat asthma. Children with multiple food allergies also may suffer from asthma.

A small number of districts, including the Chula Vista Elementary School District, buy and stock epinephrine at all their schools.

“Rarely a year goes by where we haven't used an EpiPen for a child in our stock. We have saved lives,” said Dale Parent, health services coordinator for the Chula Vista district.


Posted by David at 10:23 AM

September 4, 2006

'Peanut-mom' shares perspective on allergy

By Jennifer Geraghty

As a new academic year begins, parents are busy preparing backpacks and planning meals and snacks for their children to take to school. This year, I am too, but from a very different perspective than the years before. Last May, my 7-year-old, peanut-allergic son passed a food challenge, which cleared him of his potentially deadly food allergy. Only about 10 percent of kids with peanut allergy ever outgrow it, and mine did. The joy our family feels comes from what seems like a miracle, even though it is most likely merely a developmental change in my son.

As I've shed my "peanut-mom" identity, thoughts have swirled around in my mind, and feelings have erupted in my heart. It feels strange to be in the other "camp" - the throngs of parents with kids who must abide by the rules that food allergic kids' parents and Hingham schools have set to help prevent dangerous reactions.

When I think back to six years ago, after I resurfaced from the crushing news of my son's peanut allergy, I realize that my life settled into a steady stream of strategy, preparation, training, and vigilance. Reading every label on every food item going into his mouth; interrogating restaurant staff at every restaurant we patronized; stocking classrooms with peanut-free snacks; baking dozens of safe goodies for every special event; negotiating birthday party cakes and treats with other families; safeguarding Halloween treats; educating my extended family, other parents, teachers and school staff, babysitters on the use of life-saving Epipens to be kept with my son at all times; working with schools, camps, and after-school programs to create a safe environment for food allergic kids, was at times exhausting, frustrating, and eye-opening. Overarching these emotions was the horrible fear that my son could die from the bite of the wrong cookie.

By now, most families with children in school know of at least one of the 5 million children in America struggling with food allergy. Many people know now that the smallest trace of peanut especially, eaten, touched or inhaled, can send a child into anaphylaxis, during which the throat can close. Unfortunately, at times I encountered adults who didn't get it. I would tell myself it must be the deadliness of food allergy that eludes some people; why else would anyone ever have a problem with any changes that keep food allergic kids safe? A lack of empathy? In my experience, those who bristled or even protested against the inconvenient measures we "peanut moms" must take to keep our kids alive were greatly outnumbered by kind, concerned, careful people who did wonderful things to protect my son and others with food allergy. Those who were able to sacrifice the convenience of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, wipe down their tables and countertops, or buy their birthday cakes at certain bakeries displayed the best of human compassion. Such goodness was overwhelming to me, even when these wonderful people would downplay their efforts.

The school community needs to continue their efforts to keep these brave kids well.

Posted by David at 6:12 PM

August 21, 2006

FAAN Back to School with Food Allergy Recommendations

The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) Has an Important Warning for Parents of Children With Severe Allergies

NEW YORK, Aug. 15 PRNewswire - It is estimated that two million school-aged children have food allergies, and for the parents of these children, back-to-school planning is a particularly stressful time. Developing cafeteria emergency plans to protect against a possible fatal reaction is crucial, but there are classroom dangers as well.

According to Anne Munoz-Furlong, Founder and CEO of The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN), the nation's leading nonprofit, patient advocacy organization providing education and awareness on food allergy and anaphylaxis, the majority of allergic reactions to foods occur from foods used during class projects or as incentives in the classroom. The top eight allergens are milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, wheat, and soy, and any school project that contains these foods increases a child's risk.

For example, peanut jars may be used to hold crayons; wheat can be found in papier mache; peanut can be found in play dough; tree nuts are often found in "fossil digs" during school field trips to museums; and egg is sometimes used to thicken tempera paint. Before sending a child with severe allergies back to school this year, parents should take the following precautions:

> Meet with school staff to go over all allergy needs, and tour the classroom.

> Go through art and science supply closets to check materials and labels.

> Tell teachers to call you when new materials come into the classroom.

> Suggest substituting food rewards, like candy, with stickers, or pencils.

For more information, please visit:

Posted by David at 12:38 PM

July 23, 2006

A Healthier Cafeteria for Everybody

Many school districts are taking concerns about food allergies and poor eating habits together and developing healthier menus in the school cafeteria and in the classroom.

Many a district's primary concern is food allergies, with peanuts being at the top of the list due to its well-known serious reactions.

And what's a party without a few of mom's homemade cupcakes? If parents want to bring in a plate of brownies or cupcakes for Harvest Day (aka Thanksgiving where we are still able to give thanks), then at least include a list of the ingredients. And here's a hint: peanuts shouldn't be on the list. From a parent's standpoint, I still wouldn't want my child to eat the homemade treat. Mistakes happen and that's just life.

I would rather see parents provide packaged goodies instead, so that teachers can check for food-allergens on the ingredient list.

High-fat snack foods such as chips and processed baked goods are being replaced by baked chips, granola bars and fruit snacks.
And what about soda? In our over-sugared, over-caffinated culture, its no wonder kids in the U.S. are so heavy. Why not just bottled water in the classroom, and water and fruit juices in vending machines at lunch? We should do this because it would benefit the students - both allergic and non-allergic.

Some districts have a wellness committee that includes school board members or administrators, a district food service representative, parents, students and community members. Many districts have gotten a head start. Food service managers and dietitians have been adding healthier foods in cafeterias and vending machines. Students, teachers and parents are being encouraged to change the kind of treats offered at classroom parties and sold in fund-raising events.

We should all be committed to developing healthier food choices and school officials can work alongside teachers and parents to encourage a healthy lifestyle.

Posted by David at 3:20 PM

June 30, 2006

NJ needed a law for this?

According to an article on this week, a bill was approved unanimously this week by their state senate that allows children with food and other allergies to inject themselves with epinepherine.

The bill amends an existing law on the books that allows students with severe asthma to inject themselves with epinephrine. Apparently it was up to each district as to whether a student with a child food allergy was allowed to carry epinepherine. In some districts only a nurse could inject the life saving medicine.

Hmm. That's interesting. What did they do, exactly, before the bill passed? Well, read this excerpt...

In November 1996, German Lopez, 18, a senior at John F. Kennedy High School in Paterson, went into anaphylactic shock and died after eating a candy bar containing peanuts. Family members and school officials said Lopez knew about his allergy but was not aware that the candy had nuts in it. School officials said they did not know Lopez was allergic to peanuts. His mother told a school nurse she kept his medication at home.

He kept it at home? Ugh. Such a sad story and it seems clear that all parties involved failed that 18 year old - maybe even himself. Now, this was 10 years ago and we've all learned so much over that time. Also, the school didn't even know about his allergy. How much can they help if they aren't aware?

One of the representatives says,

"This is important, because there are students in classrooms across the state who have allergies who may be denied life-saving epinephrine if this bill is not passed," Kean said in a telephone interview. "Basically, my view is that in many instances, students who are deathly allergic to certain foods are placed in jeopardy every time they attend a school where epinephrine is not readily available."

Really? There are schools that are not treating this topic with the urgency and care it deserves? It seems that these days, there is WAY too much information to allow that to happen. Tap the resources out there like FAAN and our blog. Develop a personalized emergency action plan at home and make sure you are completely comfortable with the schools plan (we are all much more likely to have an emergency at school).

This is serious stuff. We have to be careful not to get lax in our diligence to keep our kids safe... or young adults as the case may be.

Posted by David at 3:18 PM

June 2, 2006

Private Donor Enables New Jersey Schools to Adopt Food Allergy Program

source: PRNewswire

The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN), the nation's leading nonprofit, patient advocacy group raising public awareness about food allergy, today announced the availability of free programs to help school officials safely manage the 55,000 food-allergic students in New Jersey. Distribution of the multi-media School Food Allergy Program (SFAP), is entirely funded by a private donor, and allows FAAN to make the program available free to New Jersey's 2,400 public schools. The initiative makes NJ the second state to provide free educational materials to educators. A similar program was launched in IL last year.

Food allergy is a public health concern amongst children today. According to a survey taken of 400 school nurses, 94 percent of those school nurses have at least one student with a potentially life-threatening food allergy, according to the Journal of School Nursing. According to the same survey, the average public school in the U.S. currently has ten students with food allergy.

"Studies show that school settings can be risky for children with food allergies because food allergens appear not just in school cafeterias, but through classroom celebrations, crafts, and math or science projects," said Anne Munoz-Furlong, FAAN founder and CEO. "The School Food Allergy Program helps schools develop and implement strategies to minimize the risk of a reaction and safely manage children with food allergies in the school setting. We are confident that these training programs help prevent allergic reactions and save lives."

Nearly 12 million Americans have food allergies and approximately three million children under the age of 18, or one in 25, are affected. Twenty-five percent of first-time reactions occur in schools. Since there is no cure for food allergies, it is essential for all schools to have an action plan in place for managing food allergies and anaphylaxis. The School Food Allergy Program was created to provide schools with comprehensive information on food allergies and anaphylaxis, along with training materials to help school nurses, food service personnel, teachers, and administrators safely manage students who might experience a reaction while at school. The program can be ordered at no cost by principals, school nurses, or administrators. FAAN members can also nominate their schools (elementary, intermediate, and high schools) to receive a special edition of the School Food Allergy Program.

The School Food Allergy Program includes a training video, an EpiPen® trainer, Twinject(TM) trainer, two posters, and a binder filled with more than 100 pages of information and standardized forms. The program was endorsed by the National Association of School Nurses (NASN), the Anaphylaxis Committee of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, and the Executive Committee of the Section on Allergy and Immunology of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The School Food Allergy Program is helping further fulfill FAAN's mission by educating more school administrators on food allergies and anaphylaxis, and the serious consequences of being unprepared for a food allergy incident.

To order your copy of the School Food Allergy Program, please visit

Posted by David at 12:17 PM

May 20, 2006

Section 504 Primer and Child Food Allergies

NOTE: This entry is for your information only. recommends seeking the advice of a competent legal professional with regard to ADA and Section 504 matters.

Our friends at published this primer on Section 504 that dives into the details of the law and its protections.


"What are Section 504 and IDEA exactly and how might they pertain to my child with food allergy and asthma"? These are the questions I asked myself two years ago. These are my personal thoughts on the issue, and this article is not advice. This article is my understanding of how the law works based on my research, telephone conversations with my State Department of Education in Connecticut, and my many telephone conversations and e-mails with agents at the U.S. Office for Civil Rights in Boston, Massachusetts. I am not a doctor or a lawyer; I am a certified public school teacher and the parent of a child with severe peanut allergy. Please note that no 504 Plan can ensure the safety of your child, and only you, your physician and your school district can work together to create a 504 Plan that is appropriate for your child. This information is not intended to replace the medical advice, prescriptions or treatments prescribed by your doctor.

Note: This analysis pertains to schools that receive federal financial assistance (FFA) from the federal government.


Section 504 is the abbreviation for Title 34 Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. It is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability. It applies to all institutions, including public schools, which receive financial assistance from the federal government. In the public school context, children with disabilities may be protected under Section 504, IDEA or both. Parents and educators may view the full original text of Section 504, Subpart D – Preschool, Elementary and Secondary Education, Regulations 104.31-104.39 at the U.S. Office for Civil Rights web site.

(Office for Civil Right Home Page, “Title 34—Education, Subtitle B – Regulations of the Offices of the Department of Education, Chapter 1, Office for Civil Rights, Part 104, Non Discrimination on the Basis of Handicap in Programs or Activities Receive Federal Financial Assistance.” <>.)


“The ED [U.S. Department of Education] Section 504 regulation defines an ‘individual with handicaps’ as any person who (i) has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities, (ii) has a record of such an impairment, or (iii) is regarded as having such an impairment.

The regulation further defines a physical or mental impairment as

(A) any physiological disorder or condition, cosmetic disfigurement, or anatomical loss affecting one or more of the following body systems: neurological; musculoskeletal; special sense organs; respiratory, including speech organs; cardiovascular; reproductive; digestive; genitourinary; hemic and lymphatic; skin; and endocrine; or

(B) any mental or psychological disorder, such as mental retardation, organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness, and specific learning disabilities.

The definition does not set forth a list of specific diseases and conditions that constitute physical or mental impairments because of the difficulty of ensuring the comprehensiveness of any such list…”

(“The Civil Rights of Students with Hidden Disabilities Under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.” January 1, 1995. < >. Keywords: hidden disabilities.)


“The key factor in determining whether a person is considered an ‘individual with handicaps’ covered by Section 504 is whether the physical or mental impairment results in a substantial limitation of one or more major life activities. Major life activities, as defined in the regulation, include functions such as caring for one's self, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working."

(“The Civil Rights of Students with Hidden Disabilities Under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.”)


Children protected under Section 504 are commonly those with ADD, ADHD, OCD, Diabetes, AIDS, Asthma (that does not affect educational performance) and allergy just name a few. The criteria by which a child with severe food allergy is eligible for protection under Section 504 is that the physiological condition / disorder of food allergy affects the respiratory, digestive, cardiovascular and skin body systems. The physical impairment of food allergy could substantially limit breathing during an anaphylactic reaction. In addition, the U.S. Office for Civil Rights U.S., Department of Education formally recognizes “allergy” as a “hidden disability.”

(“The Civil Rights of Students with Hidden Disabilities Under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.”)


“Hidden disabilities are physical or mental impairments that are not readily apparent to others. They include such conditions and diseases as specific learning disabilities, diabetes, epilepsy, and allergy. A disability such as a limp, paralysis, total blindness or deafness is usually obvious to others. But hidden disabilities such as low vision, poor hearing, heart disease, or chronic illness may not be obvious. A chronic illness involves a recurring and long-term disability such as diabetes, heart disease, kidney and liver disease, high blood pressure, or ulcers."

(“The Civil Rights of Students with Hidden Disabilities Under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 19743.”)


The legislators who wrote Section 504 purposely used broad and relatively non- prescriptive language so that the law would encompass a wide range of disabilities. Schools must give children protected under Section 504 an “individualized educational program” with “accommodations.” This program usually takes the form of a 504 Plan. The 504 Plan lists and explains the formal accommodations and modifications that will be made to the public school environment to ensure the least restrictive learning environment (LRE). The LRE must provide equal opportunities for children protected under Section 504 to the maximum extent possible as their non-disabled peers. A 504 Plan for a children with food allergy should have many components to address important food allergy issues so affected children have the best possible chance of staying safe.

(e.g., Amy is contact allergic to peanuts, one accommodation to the learning environment might be: All children in Amy’s class will wipe their hands with wipes upon entering the classroom.)


“The clear and unequivocal answer to that is no.” (OCR Policy Letter to Zirkel, 20 IDELR 134, 8/23/93.)

Dr. Perry A. Zirkel is a professor of education and law at Lehigh University. Dr. Zirkel is a “nationally recognized authority on special education law in general, and Section 504 in particular. [He] wrote the federal Office for Civil Rights for an interpretation” (Reed Martin) of whether or not the “reasonable” limitation applies to elementary and secondary students the same way it applies to employees or postsecondary/vocational students. The U.S. Office for Civil Rights responded to Zirkel’s letter, and it was signed by the chief officer for civil rights in the U.S. Department of Education.


Posted by David at 5:12 PM

May 19, 2006

Is A Peanut Allergy A Disability?

We've received a couple of pings regarding the protection of a child peanut allergy under the ADA, so we did some combing on-line to find out more. Please note: this is not legal advice. If you find yourself in a legal situation, recommends seeking the advice of a competent legal professional.

According to There has been differing opinions with regard to a child food allergy qualifying as a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act. In a case with a pre-school vs. a child with a peanut allergy (Land v. Baptist Medical Center) the court ruled that the child did not qualify for protection under the ADA.

Under the ADA, a disability is 1) a physical or mental impairment that 2) substantially limits 3) one or more of the major life activities of such individual.

The court found that the child did have a physical impairment and that a major life activity was limited. However, her breathing was only restricted if exposed to peanut products, so she was not entitled to protection under ADA.

In similar situations, courts have ruled the other way, so there is still room for interpretation in the law and courts will take it case by case.

Posted by David at 6:56 AM

April 21, 2006

Safe School Bus Policy?

I read an article last week about a family who was fighting with their school about how to handle the school bus ride for their food allergic child. It brought up some interesting points.

Should there be a written policy for preventing and responding to life-threatening food allergies on the buses? Parents of children with severe food allergies probably have reason to be worried.

Is the solution to have epinephrine on the buses with drivers who are trained to use EpiPens? Or could a bus driver simply carry a cell phone to call 911 if they see something wrong?

If there is an agreed upon allergy response policy in the classroom, what makes the bus any different? Is it that the driver holds in his/her hands the lives of many children during the ride and should not be expected to handle the extra burden of food allergy preparedness?

Remember, life-threatening allergies are a federally defined disability, requiring school departments to make accommodations for those with such allergies under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Also remember, going down that path with school adminstrators is a bit of a slippery slope. (You might become one of THOSE parents.)

What role do the parents play in making sure their child is safe on the bus? Gloves? Allergen barrier lotion? Should the child always sit by themselves in the front row? (We wouldn't want them to stand out too much, would we?)

As with most of what we deal with as parents of food allergic children, there are no easy answers. My opinion is that well thought out planning and open discussion will always work better than pointing to legislation and demanding action. Try getting to know the bus driver. Maybe bake them an allergen-free treat once a week and have your child say thanks as he/she hands the driver the treat with a smile. You can always get more done by showing kindness.

Posted by David at 11:48 AM | Comments (2)

January 25, 2006

Mad As Hell? What can we reasonably expect?

In a UPI article yesterday, we learned about a show down in Nashville, where officials declared a boy's peanut allergy does not entitle him to long-term home schooling at the taxpayers' expense.

The story is about a 9 year boy who suffered a near fatal reaction reaction from his food allergy at his school back in September 2005. School officials said they had taken all steps possible to make Stratton Elementary School as safe as possible for the boy.

The district had provided short term home schooling for the fourth grader but would not continue the program into 2006. And when he returns to school, officials say they can not guarantee a peanut-free environment for the boy. His mom is "mad as hell" and considering legal options.

This is a tough situation. We all want to keep our kids safe. Sure, we just want them to be treated as regular kids at school but safety must come first. Here the 4th grader experienced a very scarey situation and his mom wants more assurance from the school.

On the other hand, what is reasonable when 1 or 2 kids at the school have a severe child food allergy? Home schooling for all funded by the taxpayers? A guaranteed peanut free environment? I'm not sure what the answer is.

What I do know is that we, as parents and our child's protector, need to communicate clearly, calmly and often with those who also care for our children. Schools, churches, camps, karate class... all of these situations require education of the leaders in those programs. I think all we can really hope for is well-educated, caring people who put forth a genuine effort to keep our kids safe.

Posted by David at 5:45 PM

January 13, 2006

Helping the Substitute Teachers Keep Your Child Safe

Okay, so you've done a great job educating staff at the beginning of the year. Ran the in-service showing how to use the epi-pen. Sent a letter home to the class parents. All is good, right? Well, until the teacher ends up with the flu and is out for two weeks!

It happened to us... 4 different substitutes over a 2 week period. Every morning meant being ready for a quick in-service before class starts. Sure, the sub should have all the info in the "sub folder", but what if the previous substitute teacher took it home the day before by mistake? Better to have multiple copies in the school office (nurse's office?), just in case.

A one page action plan plan should includes signs and symptoms, and instructions for administering the EpiPen. The EpiPen instructions should include bullet pointed, easy to follow instructions. In an emergency situation, you don't want a substitute teacher trying to replay your verbal instructions in their head.

Posted by David at 8:42 AM

January 10, 2006

New Candian Law to Protect Children with Allergies

The Ottawa Sun published an article about the new Ontario law that went into effect this week. The law, known as Sabrina's law, was the result of a mother's effort to make sure her daughters death was not in vain. The law seems to take a prudent approach to handling the sensitive issue of kids at risk of anaphylactic shock due to child food allergy, bee stings, or other causes.

Highlights of Sabrina's Law:

- Every school board will establish and maintain an anaphylactic policy in accordance with the law.

- The policy will include strategies that reduce the risk of exposure to things that cause anaphylactic incidents in classrooms and common areas.

- A communication plan for the dissemination of information on life-threatening allergies to parents, pupils and employees.

- Regular training on dealing with life-threatening allergies for all employees and others who are in direct contact with pupils on a regular basis.

- A requirement that every principal develop an individual plan for each pupil who has an anaphylactic allergy

- Principals must ensure that, upon registration, parents, guardians and pupils will be asked to supply information on life-threatening allergies.

- Principals must maintain a file for each anaphylactic pupil and copies of any prescriptions and instructions from the pupil's physician or nurse and a current emergency contact list.

Posted by David at 8:32 AM

January 9, 2006

Don't try to scare them

I saw an article from a small town paper in Michigan and a quote from there really got me thinking...

"I talk to them about peanut allergy and honestly I try to scare them," she explained. "I tell them 'you're going to be the one who has to save their life.'"

I know the intent of this mother educating the staff and stressing the importance of their role in the emergency care... I get that. It's just that we need to be careful how we educate. I don't want school staff to be scared, I just want them to be prepared.

One important key is an emergency "action plan," something that we strongly encourages parents to create along with the school nurse. Our kids with a severe child food allergy each have their own education flyer that is easy to read and has clear emergency plan steps including a picture of our child and our cell phone numbers (to be dialed AFTER 911, of course). The flyer is so helpful at the beginning of school, the start of a new semester and especially when there is a substitute teacher.

An action plan is an important part of keeping a child with a food allergy safe. Education and preparedness are the keys.

Posted by David at 8:34 AM | Comments (1)

January 5, 2006

Safety within reason and being food allergy-aware

With the introduction of the new food labeling law here in the U.S., we've seen a lot of press coverage on the topic. Most articles are, well, pretty pedestrian in terms of really providing value to the reader. However, today I read an article from the Times-Herald Record and felt pretty good about what and how they covered this issue of managing child food allergies at school.

In the article, they describe school food allergy emergency plans, which are developed between the school nurse and the allergic child's parents. In addition to education about the particular food allergies, the school trains staff members in emergency procedures in case a child has a severe reaction to an allergic food. The approach of working closely with the school nurse is something we've seen work time and time again. The nurse can be a huge ally in your efforts to keep your child safe, so protect that relationship.

One school follows "safety within reason" guidelines. There is no school ban on nut products, however, for those young kids with severe food allergies, an adult may accompany them through the lunch line to keep them safe from the wrong foods. The article says many kids who have child food allergies don't eat foods prepared by cafeteria staff anyway. This approach seems prudent and should be acceptable to any reasonable school administrative staff person.

Another school has a portion of the cafeteria designated as a "no-nut" zone and children who have a lunch containing nuts sit in the back of the cafeteria. The principal is quoted as saying, "We can't claim to be a nut-free zone. We call it nut-aware. Our goal is really just to minimize risk to the greatest extent possible."

I'm not sure if the "back of the bus" approach is fair to the non-allergic kids but it great to see the school taking reasonable safety measures.

It is this level-headed approach to education and safety that will promote harmony between the schools and families and really works to benefit all of us who strive to educate other regarding the dangers of child food allergies.

Posted by David at 8:14 AM

November 16, 2005

Child Food Allergy Legislation

Check out the article about new Food Allergy Legislation in Calgary. The article says some parents of food allergic children are not sure legislation is necessary, but believe it helps with awareness.

The individual schools are responsible for how they protect the 12,000 children in the province who have allergies. The article also mentions similar legislation in Ontario is expected.

"Only through education and awareness and training can anaphylactic children truly be safe in schools," one parent is quoted. "A regulation or a guideline, in our opinion, never equals law. Law imposes new duties on school boards."

An allergy specialist, says legislation may not be needed because schools already have policies in place to protect children. He said segregating food in certain areas could also give allergic students a false sense of security.

At the elementary school they have trained all teachers how to use the EpiPen students need if they go into anaphylactic shock. Additionally, they wash the lunch tables with bleach each day, so that children with allergies have a truly clean surface on which to eat.

Posted by David at 8:43 AM

November 8, 2005

Other parents providing treats?

The Kansas City Star just ran a piece from Parenting magazine regarding a question from a parent of a non-food allergic child. Claire McCarthy from Harvard Medical School responded to the question in a concise and informative manner, however, from the parent of the child with the food allergy, I have a different perspective.

The article said managing the food allergy situation wasn't simple and it needs to be taken seriously, because the allergic reaction can be life-threatening - a good message to send. It then went on to state how the other parents in the class need to read ingredients and look for hidden allergens in the ingredient listings.

Peanuts show up in places you wouldn’t expect. Nuts are often blended into cereals, granola bars and baking mixes. Many soups use nuts as thickeners, and a variety of foods are made with peanut oil. And many foods without nuts are processed on machines where peanut-containing foods were made, which can cause a reaction in an allergic person. Even plain M&M’s can have traces of them, for instance (as can lots of other chocolate candies).

I've said before (and will again, I'm sure), I do appreciate other parents not bringing food containing nuts to my kids classroom. On the other hand, how bad would that parent feel if they made a mistake? I know our friends would feel terrible. So, we do a combination of safe steps. First, we ask that parents not bring snacks containing nuts. Second, we always provide the snack for our own child. Think of it as two layers of protection. It works for us.

Posted by David at 4:33 PM

August 21, 2005

School Food Allergy Program Materials

How about some more information on child food allergies at school? A guide titled "School Food Allergy Program" is available at This is a multimedia program implemented across the nation and is designed to help parents and school staff develop a management plan for child food allergies in school.

This free child food allergy program includes a video, a food allergy awareness poster, and examples of model school programs to manage food allergies in schools. Visit their web site for more information.

We are firm believers that any information you can get to help manage child food allergies at school is welcome input. Just as with other parenting advice or guides, you need to determine what precautions you are comfortable with and implement what works for you (and your school nurse, of course).

Posted by David at 9:19 AM