(BPT) - As a parent, you might be asked about bringing treats in for your child to share with the classroom. You'll probably want to roll up your sleeves and dig through the recipe file for the yummiest treat you can find. Before you get started, be certain to find out if there are any children with food allergies in the classroom and the school.
Food is a very important part of the school day - from snacks and treats to the lunch hour, but children with food allergies could face extreme consequences if they come in contact with certain foods. All states have laws governing how schools protect students and employees with allergies and asthma, but these laws vary from state to state. Each year the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) releases its State Honor Roll of Asthma and Allergy Policies for Schools, recognizing those states that are at the forefront of establishing policies, and pointing out other states that don't yet make-the-grade. Check out what laws and policies have been established in your state at www.StateHonorRoll.org.
Also keep the guidelines from your state in mind as you purchase or make treats for your child's classroom from Halloween all the way to Valentine's Day:
* Check with the classroom teacher and the school first about foods that should not be brought into school. Some children have extreme allergies, such as to peanuts, and can react to minimum contact like touching a door handle that had been previously touched by someone handling something with nuts. Any food can cause an allergic reaction, but milk, soy, eggs, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish allergies are some of the most common. If purchasing a snack, read the ingredients list carefully, and double check it against the allergy list provided by the school.
* When preparing the foods - or shopping at the grocery store - make certain the foods you'll be taking to the classroom don't come in contact with foods that are barred from the school. This includes washing pots, pans and utensils thoroughly before blending ingredients when baking at home.
* If your child has been diagnosed with a food allergy, consider making special treats he can enjoy without worrying about the snacks containing the foods he's allergic to. Also develop an allergy action plan with your child's doctor, teacher and the school nurse. A free asthma/allergy action card is available from AAFA on the State Honor Roll website, which helps you outline what foods to avoid, what medications to keep (an epinephrine auto-injector is the best first-line emergency treatment), what to do in case of emergencies, who to contact and more. The AAFA site also has many other pages of free information and tips about food allergies.
During special school events, encourage your children to have fun, but also be mindful that some foods can cause their classmates to have serious reactions. And keep food allergies at the top of your thoughts when you're asked to bring treats for a classroom party. It will help make the celebration much more fun - especially when the child with the allergy doesn't have to worry about the foods she's eating.