Choosing a Preschool for Your Food Allergic Child

Choosing a preschool is hard enough, but couple that by having a child with food allergies and it can be downright challenging. So here are a few facts and tips to help guide the process:

Facts

  • About 1 out of 13 children in the US have food allergies – that’s roughly 2 kids/average classroom.
  • 30% of kids with food allergies are allergic to more than one thing.
  • Every food allergy reaction has the potential to change from benign to severe or life threatening. You can’t predict the severity of a student’s reaction based on previous reactions.
  • 1 out of 5 kids with food allergies will have a reaction while in school.
  • 25% of first reactions do happen at school in children with no prior history.
  • Although more than 170 foods have been known to cause a reaction in people, 8 foods in particular are responsible for more than 90% of reactions. They are milk, eggs, peanuts, soy, wheat, tree nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans), fish and shellfish (crab, lobster, shrimp).

With these facts in mind, it’s pretty clear that schools need to be knowledgeable, and parents and schools need to be prepared. And because preschool-aged children generally are not capable of keeping their hands to themselves or judging the importance of not sharing food, it’s incumbent on schools and parents to take this responsibility seriously.

Tips

  • The school should have a general awareness of food allergies.
  • The school should be diligent in managing food allergic children.
  • Teachers and caregivers should be careful label readers.
  • Art and craft projects should not contain any offending allergens (tempera paints contain egg, peanut butter used for bird feeders, etc)
  • School should have procedures in place for avoiding cross contact or contamination in the classroom, and in food service or preparation areas.
  • The school should have a protocol for enacting emergency procedures.
  • Teachers or caregivers, and even bus drivers, should be comfortable and confident in administering epinephrine.
  • Caregivers and teachers should have ongoing training in managing food allergies.

While looking for a preschool capable of accommodating your child’s needs, keep this information in mind.

 

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About Dr. JJ Levenstein

Dr. JJ Levenstein is a board-certified pediatrician and fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics and in 2012 retired from her thriving private pediatric practice in Encino, California. She served on the staff of CHLA and Encino Tarzana Hospitals for 20 years and was consistently voted one of the Best Doctors in America® from 2003 through 2012. Drawing from her experience as a pediatrician and mom, Dr. Levenstein serves as president and co-founder of MD Moms, makers of Baby Silk, the first personal care line for babies developed by pediatrician moms. She serves on the board of United Cerebral Palsy LA, is an active writer and sits on the advisory boards of several child-centered websites. She is an accomplished chef and completed culinary school in 2013! She has had a lifelong interest in child nutrition and all things related to preventive health.

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