Back-to-school with peanut allergy: 6 steps for parents to consider
What families living with peanut allergy need to know to help care for their kids at school
For families living with peanut allergy, the most common food allergy among children in the U.S.1, managing the allergy can require constant vigilance and supervision. This includes diligently reading food labels and, for some, avoiding social gatherings, such as birthday parties and summer camp, in fear of accidental exposure. Practicing a strict peanut-free diet alone might not be enough, as even a small amount of exposure to the allergen can prompt an allergic reaction.2
With many schools reopening for in-person learning this fall, parents of children with peanut allergy may be feeling nervous to send their kids back to school. This may be particularly true for those with young children starting school in-person for the first time who are not accustomed to the independence and level of vigilance required.
Here are six proactive steps that parents can take when sending children with peanut allergy back into the classroom:
1. Speak to the child’s allergist
Before the school year begins, parents should make an appointment to speak to their child’s allergist. At this time, parents can work with the allergist to update their Emergency Care Plan, which details the child’s allergies and what to do in case of an allergic reaction. During this appointment, parents can also discuss treatment options with their allergist.
2. Inform the school
Parents should share their Emergency Care Plan with school administrators and explain how they can help prevent accidental exposure to peanut. Many schools have protocols in place, but it’s important to have open conversations to ensure comfort with those protocols and to put other protocols in place as needed. The school may even have information about a food allergy support group for parents whose children attend local schools, which could offer useful tips.
Parents should make a complete list of the foods their child is allergic to and share emergency contact information, along with how and where their child’s medication will be stored. Additionally, they should confirm that the school staff is trained to administer injectable epinephrine.
3. Educate, educate, educate
Parents may want to meet with teachers, health professionals, cafeteria staff and other parents to educate them about the child’s peanut allergy and what to do in case of an allergic reaction. An educational session, in collaboration with the child’s teacher, could be offered to classmates during which students can ask questions and better understand what it means to avoid even the tiniest traces of peanut.
4. Reduce transportation concerns
The school bus may pose a risk for accidental peanut exposure as buses are used for daily transportation and for class field trips. Parents should talk to their child’s school to understand school bus rules and protocols for food allergy management.
5. Prepare lunch or learn about substitute meal options
Preparing lunch at home may offer some parents assurance, while others may prefer that their child uses the school cafeteria. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) requires schools to offer substitute meals for students with life-threatening food allergies. This may require written instructions from the child’s healthcare provider and is another reason that speaking with the school’s food service director in advance of the school year is suggested.
Once thought to be a permanent condition, peanut allergy is now a treatable condition with the use of Oral Immunotherapy or desensitization to peanuts. Granted, this article is sponsored by the maker of Palforzia, Aimmune, but it is a good option for kids with peanut allergy.
- Why should I consider the use of an “expensive” protocol for peanut desensitization? (Palforzia)
- Using a FDA approved protocol simply means that researchers have agreed upon the dose escalation that minimizes adverse reactions such as anaphylaxis during the procedure. After all, you are giving your child a food that they are allergic to!
- The amount of peanut protein is standardized between doses, meaning during the “up-days” and escalation phase, your child will always get the anticipated dose, making anaphylaxis less likely to occur.
- In order to start using “peanut desensitization”, parents and physicians must verify that they have completed the appropriate education on how to use Palforzia and not “shoot from the hip.” If it were my child, I would always want to use a product that’s been tested and standardized for best results done safely.
6. Find out if treatment could be the right option
Some families living with peanut allergy may not be aware that there is a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved treatment for children aged 4 through 17 years with peanut allergy. This might be an option for families who want to help take the power back from peanuts.
PALFORZIA® [Peanut (Arachis hypogaea) Allergen Powder-dnfp] is intended to gradually decrease your child’s sensitivity to small amounts of peanuts that may be hidden in foods. As children go back to school, parents may want to speak to their child’s allergist to see if PALFORZIA may be the right choice for them.
WHAT IS PALFORZIA?
PALFORZIA is a treatment for people who are allergic to peanuts. PALFORZIA can help reduce the severity of allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis, that may occur with accidental exposure to peanut. PALFORZIA may be started in patients aged 4 through 17 years old. If you turn 18 years of age while on PALFORZIA treatment you should continue taking PALFORZIA unless otherwise instructed by your doctor.