[Podcast] Why is May designated as Food Allergy Awareness Month? Dr. Perrodin points out the merits of awareness activities centered to food and other allergies – some with potentially life-threatening consequences. However, he identifies the irrationality of devoting the month of May to allergy awareness primarily as it is at the very end of the school year! 55 million students that attend schools in America every day – not to mention students attending post-secondary institutions.
DIRECT LINK to MP3 of this Episode: https://tinyurl.com/SDP96
FIRE PREVENTION MONTH
Since 1922, Fire Prevention Month (began as Fire Prevention Week) was recognized across America in October. This made sense. As the cooler months settled in, people would resort to fireplaces to heat their homes. In modern times, Fire Prevention Month expanded to include awareness of carbon monoxide poisoning due to using portable heating units in confined spaces. I don’t think anyone would argue to change Fire Prevention Month. So, we can identify the logic with October as Fire Prevention Month. We can’t identify the logic with May as Food Allergy Awareness Month.
THE PROBLEM WITH ALLERGY AWARENESS MONTH IN MAY
It’s obvious. It’s recognized at the end of the school year when it will offer little benefit to students and staff. Would we ever consider having the first fire drill of the school year in May? No – and it certainly doesn’t make sense to roll out the allergy awareness activities weeks before students head into summer vacation.
HOW MANY PEOPLE HAVE FOOD ALLERGIES?
The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Connection Team (FAACT) is a robust clearinghouse for food allergy data and professional development resources. I have used information from their website to substantially inform this narrative. In the US, an estimated 12 million people have food allergies – and the prevalence of food allergies in school-aged children is rapidly rising. Actually, allergies in general are on the rise – including reactions to latex or clay. Food allergies cause roughly 30,000 emergency room visits and 150 deaths per year.
KEYS TO FOOD ALLERGY MANAGEMENT IN SCHOOLS
In the United States, the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 causes people to be reminded of allergy problems every time they handle a food package, and restaurants have added allergen warnings to menus. We can look to 2004 as the “modern era” for awareness of food allergies. Dr. Perrodin shares his personal accounts of collaborating with food service directors and school nurses to learn how schools can best manage food allergy risks. In fact, a contributing factor to food allergies might be as simple as a product vendor changing from one brand of applesauce to another brand of applesauce. So, it’s less and issue of how we handle food allergy awareness – the issue is WHEN we spotlight this critical matter.
PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT FOR FOOD ALLERGIES
Dr. Perrodin offers authentic examples of educating teachers and students to the symptoms of allergic reactions; the sometimes complex and also the political interface between schools responding to a student presenting with a severe allergic reaction and the requests of the student’s parent.
WHAT ARE EPI-PENS?
When someone presents with a severe allergic reaction which often includes swelling of the airway and difficulty breathing, an epinephrine autoinjector (AKA, Epi-Pen) is used for injecting a measured dose or doses of epinephrine by means of autoinjector technology. It is most often used for the treatment of anaphylaxis. This can be done per medical order or without a medical order. However, 911 must be called following administration of the Epi-Pen as it will delay the full manifestations of symptoms. David mentions that schools can often obtain free Epi-Pens by contacting their health insurance carrier or philanthropic groups. He also has suggestions of ways to use expired Epi-Pens for professional development.
COMMON FOOD ALLERGY ITEMS – THE BIG 8
Peanuts; Tree nuts (cashews, pecans, walnuts, etc.); Milk; Egg; Wheat; Soy; Fish (halibut, salmon, etc.); Shellfish (crab, lobster, shrimp, etc.).
WHAT CAN SCHOOLS DO?
David recommends that schools unilaterally designate September or October as Food Allergy Awareness Month and engage in the full spectrum of professional development and awareness activities that would otherwise happen in May. Then, in May, a refresher about allergy awareness can be incorporated into instruction and might serve as a reminder for students to be vigilant as they enter different settings during the summer.
Food Allergy Resource:
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