Food Allergy Awareness for the School Year

As the weather gets colder and the leaves start changing colors our minds begin shifting away from summer and towards the new school year. While this typically brings feelings of excitement, parents of a child with a food allergy can be filled with mixed emotions often provoking higher levels of stress and anxiety.

Around 6 million children in the United States have food allergies, which is equal to about two children in every classroom. Food allergies among children are on the rise and have increased about 50 percent from 1997 to 2011. A total of eight foods account for 90 percent of all food allergies, which include:

  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Peanuts
  • Tree Nuts
  • Wheat
  • Soy
  • Fish
  • Shellfish

Some allergies (milk, egg, wheat, and soy) may resolve in childhood while allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, fish, and shellfish are typically lifelong.  Nearly 40 percent of children with food allergies are reported to have a history of a severe reaction. With a severe reaction, symptoms can occur within minutes to several hours after eating the food and can affect the skin, gastrointestinal tract, respiratory tract, and in very severe cases the cardiovascular system. Anaphylaxis is the term for a potentially life-threatening reaction that occurs after exposure to an allergen.

Policies on food allergies will vary from school to school, but the bottom line is to follow the guidelines and recommendations of your school to ensure the safety of children. Here are some tips and ways to support others with food allergies in the classroom (these also work at home):

  • If possible, restrict identified allergens from the classroom. Even a small amount of the allergen ingested, or through contact with the skin, can cause a reaction in those with severe allergies.
  • If food is brought to school, make sure it is properly labeled and packaged so allergens can be identified and avoided if needed.
  • Celebrate in ways that do not involve food. Birthdays and parties can be celebrated with games, crafts, and time outside. Treat bags can be filled with small toys and other non-edible trinkets.
  • Discourage your children from sharing their food, beverages, and utensils and ask them to always wash their hands after eating.
  • If a food allergy is recognized in your child’s classroom all classroom members can use this time to explore new foods and ingredients they may enjoy to replace the one that is restricted
  • For teachers and staff: Avoid using food as a reward or as a part of curriculum. A classroom movie, time outside, guest speaker, or field trip can help motivate students.
  • For parents of a child with a food allergy: Consider a medic alert bracelet for them to wear to help remind others of their allergy. These can be personalized and the child can choose a fun design to include on the bracelet.

Want to learn more about this topic? Explore this lesson below!

Looking for healthy, allergy-friendly recipes to share? Check out our Healthful Recipes board on Pinterest!

 

Don’t Be Frozen – Let It Go!

Description

Stand with your legs hip width apart. Take a deep cleansing breath and bend over at your waist. Look down at the ground and let your upper body hang. Pull your belly button in gently to protect your lower back. Let the weight of your upper body pull you down toward the floor.

Then start moving your arms in random circular patterns (doesn’t matter how your arms swing) while still looking down. Let go of the tension in your next and shoulders. Stop moving your arms after 20 to 30 seconds. Breathe in and as you breathe out, try to lower your hands toward the floor until you reach a gentle stretch. Breathe in and as you breathe out, roll back up one vertebrae at a time.

Modification Option

Poor Balance: Lean back against a wall or sit in a chair with your feet flat on the ground, shoulder width apart.

Chair Fun – Leg Extensions

Description

Sit on the edge of the chair with your back straight. Pull your belly button in to engage your ab muscles and protect your back muscles. With your knee bent, lift one leg up slightly and hold for a few seconds. Straighten your leg out as far as you can without dropping it down to the floor. Bring your leg back into a bent position but don’t lower your foot back to the ground. Repeat extensions to a straightened leg 20 times. Then lower your leg down and put your foot on the floor. Repeat with the other side. This exercise is great for strengthening your leg muscles!

Chair Fun – Leg Lifts

Description

Sit on the edge of the chair with your back straight. Pull your belly button in to engage your ab muscles and protect your back muscles. With your knee bent, lift one leg up slightly and hold for a few seconds. Then do 50-100 small pulses. Make this movement from your hip. (Pretend like your leg is a lever making your knee go up.) Don’t let your leg drop below parallel. Repeat on the other side. This exercise is great for strengthening your leg muscles!

Love Football – make a goal post!

Description

Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Raise your arms out at your sides and up to your shoulder level. Make a gentle fist with each hand. Bend each arm at the elbow with your fists pointed up at a 90 degree angle. Keep your neck relaxed. Your upper body will look like a goal post ready for a field goal. Do 50-100 small pulses up and down with your elbows, pushing your fists straight up toward the ceiling. Keep your goal post looking nice and perfect!

Modification Options

  1. Poor balance: Lean back against a wall or sit in a chair with your feet flat on the ground, shoulder width apart.
  2. Do one arm at a time and stabilize self by holding onto a chair or table.

Arm Burners!

Description

Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Raise your arms out at your sides and up to your shoulder level. Make a gentle fist with each hand and keep your neck relaxed. Rotate your shoulders forward, making tiny circles with arms. Do this for 2-3 minutes. Then reverse the direction and rotate your shoulders backward, making small circles with your arms. Do this for 2-3 minutes.

When doing this exercise, do not let your arms go below your shoulders. Keep your shoulder, elbow and wrist in a straight line.

Modification Options

  1. Poor balance: Lean back against a wall or sit in a chair with your feet flat on the ground, shoulder width apart.
  2. Hold onto the back of a chair and do one arm at a time.

Pass Through

Description

Hold the resistance band or PVC pipe with a wide grip (more than shoulder width) in front of your body. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. While holding the band or PVC pipe, slowly raise your arms over your head and then behind your head. Keep going until you reach a gentle stretch. Slowly bring your arms back to the front of your body. Repeat 10 times.

Modification Option

Poor balance: Lean back against a wall or sit in a chair with your feet flat on the ground, shoulder width apart.

Practice Empathy

Description

Number youth off as 1’s and 2’s. Ask the 1’s to stand in a line facing the 2’s (like a mirror). Each student’s partner will be standing in front of him or her, as if a reflection. Ask the 1’s to tell the 2’s about something exciting, while the 2’s “mirror” their excitement. Switch roles and repeat. After each partner has had a chance to play each role, change the emotion of the story to mad, sad, happy, etc.

Practice Spelling Words

Description

Ask the youth to write a spelling word in the air with their fingers. Once they write the word in the air, ask them to trace a line moving from left to right underneath the letters, then right to left. Take it to the next level! Ask the youth to point to the letters (in their correct placement) as they are called out. Remind youth to use their opposite hand and then, other parts of their bodies such as their toe or elbow.

Tour Guide

Description

Studying one of the 50 great states in the U.S.? Take a tour by physically moving through the landmarks! For example, take a tour around Minnesota: walk across the Mississippi Headwaters in Itasca State Park, climb a white pine, walk tall with a moose, swim in one of the 14,000 lakes, play an instrument at Orchestra Hall, climb Eagle Mountain (the highest point in Minnesota), march up the steps at the State Capital and run around the Spoonbridge and Cherry in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. Follow the curriculum for pictures and maps.