\"Have a food-allergy plan\"

Posted on: Tue, 12/14/2004 - 1:08am
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Joined: 03/22/2004 - 09:00


Have a food-allergy plan
Working with school helps protect your child

Joelle Babula
The Arizona Republic
Dec. 14, 2004 12:00 AM

Mary Marsh found out the hard way that her young daughter could die from eating a single nut.

The little girl, Andrea Marsh, was munching on brownies with her fellow kindergarten classmates when her tongue began to swell and her throat closed up after just one bite.

"She could have died. That's how we found out about this horrible allergy she has to tree nuts," Marsh said. "I now have an epinephrine shot for her at school and one at home in the cabinet."

Marsh is just one of hundreds of Valley parents with children who suffer from severe food allergies. Like Marsh, many of them have stocked their children's schools with epinephrine shots and have notified teachers and school nurses of their child's condition. Many are especially watchful at this time of year when holiday parties are frequent and children often bring treats to the classroom to share.

Epinephrine shots are used to help someone suffering from a life-threatening allergic reaction. The shots are administered directly into the thigh muscle and work to immediately relieve breathing and cardiovascular problems.

David Ludwig, Environmental Health manager for Maricopa County, said it was vital for parents such as Marsh to talk to their child's teacher about any food allergies their children may have. He said if teachers are aware of a student's allergy ahead of time, they can plan parties accordingly and even recommend that parents do not bring in homemade foods for the children to share.

"Communication between parents and the school is really the first step," Ludwig said. "Some teachers decide to put up signs that indicate no peanut products are allowed inside."

Fourth-grade teacher Kristi Owsley said parents were usually very good about alerting her to any food allergies their children may have. Owsley is Andrea Marsh's teacher at Chandler Traditional Academy-Liberty Campus.

Owsley said she keeps an eye on Andrea when treats are brought into the classroom, but she also said the 9-year-old is very aware of her allergies and reads all food labels.

"She's very smart and knows what she can and cannot eat," Owsley said. "She brings her own lunch from home so that's very safe. When kids bring in food to share, she usually doesn't eat it."

Even parents of children without food allergies can help prevent a tragedy in the classroom by calling teachers ahead of time and working together to have a plan in place, first to prevent the child from being exposed to foods he may be allergic to, and second, what should be done if he has an allergic reaction.

"Parents can call us and ask what they can bring that everybody will be able to eat," said Jolye Bartelme, a health assistant at Chandler Traditional Academy.

"Some are very good about it and will ask whether there are any children with allergies in the class."

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