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Number of Students with Food Allergies Has Increased Significantly

As school is beginning nation wide, students with allergies to food need to prepare and school officials need make sure they are properly educated on how to treat these students. According to The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) school nurses nationwide are reporting an increase in the number of students with food allergies, and safety precautions should be taken to protect food-allergic students from reactions.

"With the number of school nurses reporting an increase in food allergies, schools and students need to work together to create a safe environment," said Anne Munoz-Furlong, founder and CEO of FAAN. "There is a need, now more than ever, for standardized training programs for school staff to address this growing public health and food safety issue."

Food Allergies A Major Safety Issue
Food allergies are a growing safety concern in schools. The 2004 study, Impact of Food Allergies on School Nursing Practice, conducted by FAAN, indicates that 60% of school nurses reported an increase in elementary-school-age students with food allergies in the classroom over the last five years. Nearly 94% of school nurses reported having at least one child with food allergies in their school and over a third of the nurses said that they had 10 or more students in the school with food allergies. A large percentage, 87%, listed food allergies among school-age children, compared with other health-related issues, as somewhat or very serious.

Because there is no current cure for food allergies, extreme avoidance is the only way to prevent severe or life-threatening reactions. Over 11 million Americans have food allergies, including about 3 million children under the age of 18. That factors out to 1-in-25 American children that have a food allergy.

In order to properly safeguard a child against a food-allergic reaction at school, all parents, doctors, school administrators, teachers, food service staff, classmates, and school nurses must cooperate and understand the safety risks. Unfortunately, however, many times this understanding and safeguarding is the sole responsibility of the school nurse, who may care for more than 500 students per school.

FAAN came up with a way to help students and school administrations share the responsibility. According to FAAN, "students can work with the school nurse and other school administrators by Taking CARE:

"Carry your medicine with you everywhere. Even if you don't plan to eat when you go to football games, or when you head to a friend's house after school, be prepared to treat an allergic reaction anyway. It's better to be safe than sorry!

"Avoid risks. If you can't be absolutely positive about the ingredients in a food, skip it and plan to eat something you know you can have later. It's far better to be hungry for a little while than it is to have an allergic reaction!

"Read ingredient statements carefully. We've heard from teens who have had allergic reactions because they missed an allergy-causing ingredient on the label due to reading too fast. One way to make yourself slow down and read carefully is to read the ingredients backwards - start at the end of the list and work your way back to the top of the list.

"Explain your allergies to your friends. Don't be embarrassed about your food allergies. If you ever had an allergic reaction while you are out with your friends, you'll want them to know what is going on and be able to help you."

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