Thursday, September 01, 2016  12:00 PM | By: Matt Dow
Food Allergies in the Classroom: How to Prevent Them

Food allergies within schools are a common issue that both students and teachers face. With some allergic reactions, a simple touch can cause serious issues. According to the CDC, approximately four to six percent of all U.S. children have some type of food allergy. According to Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE), 25 percent of student allergic reactions are from undiagnosed allergies.

Below are three of the most common food allergies for children and some advice on how to prevent reactions.

1) Nut Products

Nut Products

Common Symptoms:

  • Nasal congestion,
  • Itching of mouth, throat, or, skin,
  • Formation of hives

Nut allergies can vary in severity, ranging from an upset stomach to hives caused by contact with someone who touched a nut product. For students with severe allergies, you may need to write a letter to parents stating that your classroom is a nut-free zone.

In your classroom, consider having an EpiPen handy in case one of your students suffers from a reaction. Encourage frequent hand washing before and after food consumption. Should you ever need a substitute for your class, include in your important notes that you have a student with nut allergies.

2) Lactose Intolerance

Lactose Intolerance

Common Symptoms:

  • Nausea,
  • Complaints of gas or cramps,
  • Vomiting

Lactose intolerance affects one in four boys ages 9 to 13, according to the U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services. If you are aware of a student who has lactose intolerance, consider sitting them near the door. This will allow for them to use the restroom as needed without distracting classmates. These students might need some time in the nurses office, should they accidently have dairy products.

Consider encouraging your students to find other calcium-rich foods, such as broccoli, collard greens, turnip greens, and fortified orange juice. This will ensure they receive calcium from products besides dairy.

3) Gluten/Wheat


Common Symptoms:

  • Rash,
  • Runny nose,
  • Sneezing,
  • Anaphylaxis (severe cases)

Wheat allergies can often be confused with celiac disease or gluten intolerance. According to FARE, approximately 20 percent of those with a wheat allergy also have allergies to other types of grains. Within the classroom, there aren’t too many things that could trigger this type of disease.

Here are a few tips to follow regarding students with food allergies:

Communication is Key

When celebrating the holidays or other special events where food is involved, ensure that parents are aware of which allergies are present in the classroom. If you have not already, consider sending an e-mail or a letter home a few weeks before asking parent(s)/guardian(s) whether or not their child has food allergies.

Consider Rewards Besides Food

If you have students with any severe allergies, consider giving away rewards besides sweets. Instead, maybe give students an opportunity for extra credit if they participate.

Encourage Students to Wash Hands After Eating

Hand washing with soap and water can help prevent any allergic reactions from happening by touch.

Be Inclusive

Make sure that students with food allergies are included in classroom events. Also, let your students know that they should be careful around a student with food allergies, but be welcoming during any classroom functions.