Nicole Borgstrom’s four-year-old son has six food allergies, and while he’s not in the public school system yet, Borgstrom says he’ll be ready to say “no thank you” when someone offers him food.
It’s training that experts are hoping more parents and kids will learn outside of school, after an international team of allergy experts came out with a new set of guidelines, suggesting schools shouldn’t ban allergens as a way to prevent serious allergic reactions.
Borgstrom says even with her son’s long list of allergies, she’s on board with most of the suggestions.
“A big part of our journey with food allergies has been, you know, educating him and having him understand, and us figuring out how we’re going to live in the world with those food allergies,” Borgstrom says. “Not relying on everyone around us to abstain from those things.”
The new guidelines suggest existing blanket bans are never enforced perfectly and can single out children, making them more vulnerable to bullying.
The guidelines’ authors say there isn’t good evidence the bans actually decrease allergic reactions either.
Pediatric allergist Dr. Doug Mack says it’s also not practical anymore with the number of allergies present in schools.
“What all students have to do in their lives as they kind of move their way through, because in most high schools and universities there are no bans, they do have to learn how to manage their allergies,” Dr. Mack says.
The experts say instead of bans, schools should maintain a stockpile of EpiPens and create personalized allergy management plans for kids.
Another top-level recommendation includes that child care and school personnel not preemptively administer epinephrine in cases where no signs or symptoms of an allergic reaction are evident, even if a student has eaten a food which they are known to be allergic to.
Borgstrom says this suggestion concerns her.
“I think people have a fear that having this guideline would cause teachers or staff to hesitate or wait to administer (epinephrine),” Borgstrom says.
The guidelines suggest eight total recommendations, including having a stock of unassigned epinephrine autoinjectors (EpiPens), require all parents of students with allergies to provide an up-to-date allergy action plan and training for teachers and other personnel in the prevention, recognition and treatment of allergic reactions.