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Food Allergens at School
Time:02 Sep 2015
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OTTAWA ¨C As children head back to school, parents and caregivers should remember the importance of allergy awareness when packing school lunches.

Serious allergic reactions to food often happen without warning and can quickly become life threatening. As many as 1.2 million Canadians have food allergies. Some studies suggest this number may be increasing, especially among children. Up to six percent of children currently have food allergies.

Symptoms of allergic reactions can range from mild skin irritations and hives to serious breathing difficulties and loss of consciousness.

Peanuts, tree nuts (almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios and walnuts), sesame seeds, soy, seafood, wheat, eggs, milk, mustard and sulphites are the most common food ingredients associated with severe allergic or adverse reactions in Canada.

There is no cure for food allergies. Avoiding an allergen is the only effective way to prevent a reaction. Because allergic reactions can be very serious, many schools have policies that forbid students from bringing certain items in their lunches. It is very important that you learn about and follow your child?ˉs school?ˉs allergen policy closely, even if your child doesn?ˉt have allergies.

Here are some important steps you should take:

  • Ensure that if your child has been prescribed an adrenaline auto-injector, such as an EpiPen, he or she knows how to use it and carries it at all times.
  • Teach your child to read labels and ask questions before eating foods if he or she is prone to severe allergic reactions.
  • Make sure the school is aware that your child is allergic to a certain food. Work with your child?ˉs teacher and the school?ˉs staff to come up with a strategy to keep your child safe.
  • Remind your child that it is not safe to trade or share food.
  • Consider alternative sandwich-filling ingredients if the school policy restricts peanuts. You can find healthy alternatives to peanut butter at your local grocery store.
  • ALWAYS read the labels on the food you pack in your child?ˉs lunch. Don't pack any food with ingredients that are not allowed at your child?ˉs school. Note that manufacturers sometimes change ingredients.
  • Look for warning statements on the label such as ?°May Contain...?± Even trace amounts can cause a severe allergic reaction.

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