Category: School Resources

Helpful school resources for advocacy, school policy, safety, parents, teachers, allergy students, snack lists, parties, field trips,etc.

Mylan Expands Voluntary Recall of More Epi-Pens & Epi-Pen Jr. in United States

Mylan Pharmaceuticals expanded its’ Epi-Pen Recall over the weekend to include the Epi-Pen Jr. and several more lot numbers below.  Many of us experienced a similar recall with the Auvi-Q Auto Injectors just over one year ago…this is all too familiar and extremely frustrating!  Please click here for the full article on Mylan’s website regarding the recall.

 

Safe Halloween Candy List

Halloween Picture

Well it’s that time of year where people start asking me for a comprehensive “Allergen-Friendly” Halloween List.  Over the years my list has grown quite a bit which is amazing for parents with children that have multiple food allergies.  There are so many wonderful options nowadays that we can buy for our children and ensure they will have an amazing SAFE Halloween!  Please Note: ALWAYS check ingredients!  This list is only meant to be used as a guide.

Additionally, if you are supporting FARE’s Teal Pumpkin Project this year as we always do, please have a several non-candy treat items for children that may not be able to have candy at all.  Typically, I have a bowl of pencils, erasers, stickers, temporary tattoos, small toys, etc.  These can all be purchased at your local dollar store.

ENJOY!  ~Erika

  • DIVVIES Chocolates
  • Amanda’s Own Confections
  • No Whey Chocolate
  • Enjoy Life chocolate bars
  • Peeps (some flavors have “Milk” double check ingredients)
  • Swedish Fish
  • Mike and Ikes
  • Surf Sweets Natural Gummies & Jelly Beans
  • Starburst Tropical Candy Corn (the only candy corn brand I have found to be egg-free)
  • Laffy Taffy
  • Smarties
  • Lifesaver Gummies
  • Sour Patch Kids (most varieties I believe)
  • Dum Dum Lollipops
  • Hot Tamales
  • Starburst fruit chews, lollipops, & jelly beans
  • Jolly Rancher hard candy (lollipops are made on shared equipment so I do not purchase them)
  • Kraft Marshmallows (and most marshmallow brands)
  • Twizzlers
  • Skittles (most flavors I believe)
  • PASCHA Chocolate bars
  • Airheads (most flavors)
  • Pez

Back to School With Life Threatening Food Allergies

back-to-school

This is an excellent article in our local paper regarding food allergies and how to manage them in schools locally.  Thank you Jillian Fellows for taking the time to interview me for this piece & Petoskey News Review for covering this important topic and helping to gain awareness locally!

http://www.petoskeynews.com/featured-pnr/back-to-school-with-life-threatening-allergies/article_5c9c4c52-6ffa-56ca-85d6-c842cf1d68fe.html

 

School Safe Snack List

Labels must be read every time since processing and ingredients can change at any time. Please check for tree nuts & peanuts. Also, see any allergen warning for “may contain” or “made on/processed on the same equipment as” or “processed in the same manufacturing facility as…”

Suggested Safe Snacks:

  • Fruits & Vegetables are highly encouraged (no cream dips/peanut butter)
    • Also, Sunmaid  & Meijer Brand Raisins & Most apple sauce containers including GoGo Squeez
  • Meijer Brand Naturals Baked Sea Salt natural pita crackers;
  • Silk Soy Yogurt (blueberry & strawberry)—ALWAYS read this label as several Silk Soy Yogurt flavors are processed on the same equipment as almonds!
  • Nabisco Honey Maid Graham Crackers or Spartan Brand Honey Graham Crackers
  • Nabisco Whole Grain Premium Saltine Crackers
  • Nabisco Low Sodium Premium Saltine Crackers
  • Nabisco “Original” Wheat Thins (Whole Grain) Crackers
  • Triscuit Original Whole Grain Wheat Crackers
  • Back to Nature Harvest Whole Wheat, Crispy Wheat, Organic Satines & Organic Stoneground Wheat Crackers
  • Glutino Brand Pretzels, Gold Pretzels, GFS Pretzels
  • Keebler CLUB crackers
  • Ritz Crackers (no sandwiches)
  • Stacy’s Simply Naked Pita Chips and Multi Grain Pita Chips
  • Sabre Original Hummus, Tribe Organic Roasted Garlic Hummus, Meijer Original Hummus
  • Whole Grain Cheerios (not honey nut)
  • Rice Chex
  • I.M. Healthy Original Creamy Soynut Butter (peanut free) & Safe 4School WOW Butter
  • Sunbutter & “Sneaky Chef” No Nut Butter
  • Pringles The Original
  • Live G Free (Aldie’s brand) pretzels
  • Nature’s Bakery Fig Bars
  • All Enjoy Life products
  • Lotus Biscoff Spread Smooth and Crunchy
  • Lundberg Brown Rive Organic Rice Cakes (Grain Train & Walmart)
  • Most brands of Tortilla Chips- Always check the labels as many contain “Nuts”
  • Most brands of salsa
  • Cascadian Farm Organic Oatmeal Raisin Chewy Granola Bars
  • Most Oreo Cookies are safe (read label)

Common UNSAFE FOODS (please avoid):

  • Most granola bars contain nuts
  • Luna Bars & many protein bars
  • Most Candy Bars contain nuts (M & M’s also)
  • Trail Mix
  • Hostess Snacks and most processed cookies/sweet snacks

Food Allergy Letter Home to Classmate’s Parents Before School Starts

I have had a few recent requests for my “Letter Home to Classmate’s Parents.”  I recommend you edit this template to meet you child’s needs best.  Also, I recommend sending it to the principal/officer manager for editing and then have the final letter sent home to the parents of the students in your child’s class.  This letter should be from your school principal, not the parent of the food-allergic child.  Also, I don’t think it is a good idea to name your child in the letter.  Even though my oldest son has life-threatening food allergies to DAIRY, EGGS, PEANUTS, & TREE NUTS it wouldn’t be fair to the other students and too hard to enforce a classroom free of all of the above.  Nut oil lingers on surfaces and therefore a nut-free classroom is the best option.  We have taught our boys to be responsible for their food allergies and to always be diligent about proper hand washing, reading labels, etc.

Oh, and keep the letter to one front page…if it is too long and wordy parents won’t read it!  Believe me, some parents never read this unfortunately.

Please let me know if you have any questions about this letter.

~Erika

Letter Template:

August __, 2016

Dear (School Name) Second Grade Parents,

Your child has a classmate this year that has life-threatening anaphylactic food allergies to: all dairy, peanuts, tree nuts and eggs.  We want to inform you a little about food allergies to ensure a safe and healthy school year for everyone.

Over 14 million Americans have food allergies which affects 1 in every 13 children (under age 18) or roughly 2 students in every U.S. classroom! Allergic reactions can be life-threatening, and in rare cases deadly. While emergency treatment is available for allergic reactions, there is no cure yet. The only treatment for food allergies is strict avoidance of allergens. Sometimes a small amount of allergen can cause a deadly reaction.

Benadryl and an Epi-Pen will be kept in the second grade classroom for immediate access as well as the school office if your child’s classmate should have an allergic reaction.

Please do not send any peanuts or tree nuts (i.e. almonds, cashews, pistachios, walnuts, etc.), peanut butter or foods containing peanut/tree nuts or peanut butter to be eaten as snacks or for lunch in the classroom.  Healthy alternatives are: Soynut butter, Sun Butter, or Biscotti spread.  Additionally, please check all food labels for the listing of peanuts or various tree nuts, especially on crackers, cookies, and dessert treats.

I would ask if you’re bringing in food for a party or special event that might not be allergen-free, please let (Insert Teacher’s Name) know in advance so that a safe alternative option can be provided for the classmate with food allergies. (In particular, because homemade baked goods are so likely to contain traces of allergens from previous baking, they’re not safe options for children with food allergies even if they don’t contain ingredients with milk, nuts, and eggs.)

I would also ask that you discuss food allergies with your child.  Please ask them not to share or trade food with any of their second grade classmates during lunch time. Please also assure your child that children with food allergies are no different than other children.  They can do everything anyone else can.

Finally, if your child eats foods containing dairy, peanuts, tree nuts, or eggs for breakfast, please ask them to wash their hands and brush their teeth before coming to school.

Thank you in advance for your kindness and consideration. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at _______________________.

Best regards,

Principal ___________________

 

 

New School Year with Food Allergies

Emergency Action Plan

It’s hard to believe we’re in the final weeks of summer here in Northern Michigan and preparing for our children to start back up with school again after Labor Day.  In many parts of the country, kids have already gone back to school.  With these thoughts in mind, I thought it would be helpful for all parents of children with food allergies, to discuss how I prepare my boy’s school (ie. principal, new teacher, administration, and classmates parents) for a safe school environment.  I have to add this is a “general overview” of how I work with the school to ensure a safe and productive school year for my children.  I have refined this process over the last 6 years and this is just a summary.

Since our oldest son is now going into 3rd grade I somewhat have my “Back to School Process” refined.  Our youngest will be entering first grade this fall.  I start this process each spring by scheduling usually a meeting with our school principal to discuss the upcoming school year and how we can work together to ensure the safety of my boys while at school.  I ask for teacher recommendations for the following school year and we discuss what teacher he and I feel may best meet the needs of my boy’s “unofficial 504 plan.”  Since our boys are in a private parochial school, we do not have the legal need to have a 504 plan.  Thankfully our principal was an administrator in the public school system for many years and is knowledgeable about how this process works to ensure the utmost safety of our children during the school day.  At the end of the meeting last spring our principal and I decided to touch base via email in June to discuss teacher options for my first grader since there was going to be a new hire.

Now that we are 3 weeks out from the first day of school I have not only communicated with the principal again but with the office manager.  I have to note, it is crucial to have a wonderful relationship with the staff who run the office and essentially the “nuts and bolts” of the school.  I always approach the school by stating that “we can work together” and put lots of the responsibility on myself and my boys to educate others at the school instead of making threatening demands.  This will get you nowhere and you will not build an alliance with any of the staff if you approach food allergies in a threatening manner!  It’s important to “Kill everyone with kindness.”  I know it’s a stressful situation because your child’s safety is at the hands of someone other than yourself during the day.  You have to put your emotions aside, and work with the school administration from a “Team perspective.”

Ok, I got off on a bit of a tangent…now that I have reached out to the principal again and scheduled another meeting to discuss accommodations for my boy’s classrooms for this school year (ie. nut free classroom, signage, note home to parents discussing there is a child in the class with food allergy, table sanitizing procedures, staff epi-pen training, lunchroom procedure, emergency action plan procedure, etc.), it’s also important to contact your child’s future teachers to schedule an in-person appointment to review everything.  I forgot to add that I also reached out to each teacher about 6 weeks ago to let them know that my child will be in their classroom next fall and they have life-threatening food allergies.  I asked them if they would be available a few weeks before school starts to sit down with me and discuss classroom safety procedures, emergency action plan, etc.

It is crucial to schedule an in-person meeting with the teachers.  Depending on your relationship with administration you may or may not want to have the principal and administrators present at the meetings with the teachers.  Since we are at a very small school, I do not feel the need to have administration present every fall when I meet with the teachers.  However, each school may have a different policy and it’s important to know what approach works best for your individual situation.  I have to note, if there is a new teacher at the school hopefully the principal has discussed food allergies with the teacher prior to your initial meeting.  If not, I may consider having the principal present at this meeting.

In a nutshell, when I meet with each teacher I come extremely prepared with 2 red folders.  Each folder has my child’s name written on the outside of it in bold letters, a picture of my child and the words, “FOOD ALLERGY INFORMATION.”  One folder is for the teacher, another similar folder will be for a “Substitute Teacher.”  In the folder I have a few simple handouts ie. Food allergy checklist, food allergy facts, teacher and family’s responsibilities, safe snack list,  and of course each child’s individual “Food Allergy Action Plan” which is to be posted in a visible spot somewhere in the classroom next to epi-pens.  I also have this posted in the main office and lunchroom.  So to review, I have a total of 6 epi-pens in the school for each child.  Each epi-pen bag also has several Benadryl chewable tablets.

I will also give the teach a gallon sized zip lock bag with non-perishable food for each child in case their lunch should be compromised (ie. milk gets spilled on their packed lunch).  I also offer to be in charge and organize of all classroom parties and discuss with the teacher the possibilities of limiting snacks during parties to fruits and veggies since they are much healthier.  Usually the teachers are completely on board with this since they don’t want students to have too much sugar during the day.  Also, my boy’s friends LOVE my vegan cupcakes and I usually offer to make these for classroom parties.

After meeting with my boy’s teachers I always meet separately with the office staff to review everything, restock epi-pens, hang up emergency action plans, etc.  Also, I have a template letter that I have used in the past that I send to the principal for editing that will get sent to all of the parents of students in my boy’s classrooms prior to the first day of school.  This letter basically explains the severity of food allergies and informs them there is a student in their child’s class with a life-threatening food allergy.  It is one page and talks about the importance of telling your child that food allergies, although very serious, they do not make the child any different from your child with regards to enjoying sports, school, friends, etc.  The kids are no different and should not be treated any different from other kids.

Moreover,  I ALWAYS make it a point to speak to the janitorial staff and discuss proper sanitization of the lunchroom tables.  Our principal does a wonderful job of training all of the staff members and highlighting the importance of sanitization procedures in the lunchroom to prevent cross-contamination.  We are very LUCKY I might add.  I cannot stress enough how important it is to have an excellent relationship with your administration!

This was a very brief overview of my pre-school preparation to ensure a safe school year.  I hope this is helpful to you and good luck getting ready for a wonderful new year of school for your children!

Food Allergy Awareness Video

This collaboration video Food Allergy Voices by FARE (Food Allergy Research Education) and CBS is eye opening for those who are not affected by food allergies on a daily basis. Please pass along and share this to help us spread food allergy awareness.

Pizza Hut “Book It” Reading Program & Food Allergies

book itTaking a jog down memory lane for me back to second grade, I vividly remember participating in the National “Book It” Program.  I would read for countless numbers of hours to accomplish my monthly required reading goals so I could obtain a Coupon, in exchange for a Free Personal Pan Pizza at Pizza Hut.  For those of you unfamiliar with “Book It” – It is a national campaign which started in 1984 and has been successful for over 3 decades!  Book It “Motivates children to read by rewarding their reading accomplishments with praise, recognition and pizza (bookitprogram.com).” According to bookitprogram.com, the program “Currently reaches over 14 million students in 38,000 elementary schools annually.”

But what if your child has FOOD ALLERGIES?

A Personal Pan Pizza from Pizza Hut would send my child into anaphylactic shock and possibly “Death by Cheese.”  Not to make light of this situation, but eating pizza in a chain such as Pizza Hut is the last thing anyone with a Dairy Allergy would do if their life depended on it!

I have had to get creative since my oldest son’s class started implementing the Book It program last year, when he was a first grader.  Thankfully, I have a good working relationship with Taylor’s teacher and last year, based on Taylor’s recommendation, we came up with Seven Eleven Slurpee Coupons for him in lieu of the Personal Pan Pizza at Pizza Hut.  This reward worked extremely well.  Taylor was not only motivated to read by the delicious slurpee reward, but he started reading extra hours on his own!

Now that my son is in second grade this year he asked me for some additional recommendations other than the Seven Eleven slurpee rewards.  Taylor still loves his Slurpee’s but I think he just wanted a new goal to strive for.  We brainstormed for awhile and decided that Subway sandwich gift cards were an excellent reward for his reading accomplishments during each Book It calendar month.  I ventured to our local Subway franchise the other day and purchased 8 individual gift cards and placed $7.50 on each gift card.  My son likes to eat the ham and turkey 6 inch Sub on Italian bread.  I priced it out with a “meal” which includes a drink and bag of chips and the total I believe was just under $7.50 and came to $7.31!  Not a bad compromise in lieu of Death Pizza!  Plus it’s a healthier option as well!

subway 2

The reward of the Subway gift card will not only continue to keep our son motivated to read every day after school but it will provide a healthy alternative to pizza, a food that he cannot eat outside of our home.

Please note, I did take the time to call the Pizza Hut Book It hotline in Plano, TX.  The customer service representative assured me that Pizza Hut CAN accommodate customers that have gluten allergies.  However, I would have to check with the local franchise to determine if they can accommodate “dairy” allergies.   My boys and I would NEVER set foot into a pizza hut with the possibility of cross-contamination!  It’s unfortunate but SAFETY is our utmost concern! The choice is yours however.

Please refer to my post from a few months back on “Eating at Subway with Food Allergies:”

http://smalltownallergymom.com/2015/09/03/eating-at-subway-with-food-allergies/

Pizza Hut “Book It” Reading Program & Food Allergies

book itTaking a jog down memory lane for me back to second grade, I vividly remember participating in the National “Book It” Program.  I would read for countless numbers of hours to accomplish my monthly required reading goals so I could obtain a Coupon, in exchange for a Free Personal Pan Pizza at Pizza Hut.  For those of you unfamiliar with “Book It” – It is a national campaign which started in 1984 and has been successful for over 3 decades!  Book It “Motivates children to read by rewarding their reading accomplishments with praise, recognition and pizza (bookitprogram.com).” According to bookitprogram.com, the program “Currently reaches over 14 million students in 38,000 elementary schools annually.”

But what if your child has FOOD ALLERGIES?

A Personal Pan Pizza from Pizza Hut would send my child into anaphylactic shock and possibly “Death by Cheese.”  Not to make light of this situation, but eating pizza in a chain such as Pizza Hut is the last thing anyone with a Dairy Allergy would do if their life depended on it!

I have had to get creative since my oldest son’s class started implementing the Book It program last year, when he was a first grader.  Thankfully, I have a good working relationship with Taylor’s teacher and last year, based on Taylor’s recommendation, we came up with Seven Eleven Slurpee Coupons for him in lieu of the Personal Pan Pizza at Pizza Hut.  This reward worked extremely well.  Taylor was not only motivated to read by the delicious slurpee reward, but he started reading extra hours on his own!

Now that my son is in second grade this year he asked me for some additional recommendations other than the Seven Eleven slurpee rewards.  Taylor still loves his Slurpee’s but I think he just wanted a new goal to strive for.  We brainstormed for awhile and decided that Subway sandwich gift cards were an excellent reward for his reading accomplishments during each Book It calendar month.  I ventured to our local Subway franchise the other day and purchased 8 individual gift cards and placed $7.50 on each gift card.  My son likes to eat the ham and turkey 6 inch Sub on Italian bread.  I priced it out with a “meal” which includes a drink and bag of chips and the total I believe was just under $7.50 and came to $7.31!  Not a bad compromise in lieu of Death Pizza!  Plus it’s a healthier option as well!

subway 2

The reward of the Subway gift card will not only continue to keep our son motivated to read every day after school but it will provide a healthy alternative to pizza, a food that he cannot eat outside of our home.

Please note, I did take the time to call the Pizza Hut Book It hotline in Plano, TX.  The customer service representative assured me that Pizza Hut CAN accommodate customers that have gluten allergies.  However, I would have to check with the local franchise to determine if they can accommodate “dairy” allergies.   My boys and I would NEVER set foot into a pizza hut with the possibility of cross-contamination!  It’s unfortunate but SAFETY is our utmost concern! The choice is yours however.

Please refer to my post from a few months back on “Eating at Subway with Food Allergies:”

http://smalltownallergymom.com/2015/09/03/eating-at-subway-with-food-allergies/

FIELD TRIPS WITH FOOD ALLERGIES

skulbus

My boys have now been back in school this fall for about 4 weeks and today is their first field trip to the high school football field for a Homecoming Pep Rally.  Looking back a few years when my oldest son was in kindergarten, I remember feeling quite a bit of anxiety leading up to his school field trips.  Its silly to think about the stress these school functions caused me but I’m sure most parents of kids with food allergies can relate in one way or another to my elevated anxiety levels on the subject. Even though I chaperoned almost all of the field trips,  I think most of my stress came from thoughts about my son riding on the bus and the potential of food that had been left on the bus prior to him riding it, and/or allergen oils on the bus seats.  Additionally, the is an added element of stress knowing that your child may not be as close to he hospital in case there is an allergic reaction.

In preparing my children for today’s school outing I referenced a very helpful checklist provided by FARE at www.foodallergy.org.  I have included this helpful checklist in the “Food Allergy Folder” I prepare for each of my children’s teachers at the beginning of each school year.  It’s a wonderful reference guide and I hope you will find it helpful to ease your mind while your children are safe and enjoying their school field trips.  ~Erika

Field Trip Tips

For Parents

  • Keep yourself up-to-date on upcoming special events in your child’s school. The more time you have to plan ahead, the better.
  • Remember that you and your child’s teacher need to work together as a team to keep your child safe.
  • Role-play with your child and practice what your child should do if a reaction is occurring.
  • Often times children are reluctant to mention that they’re having symptoms of an allergic reaction for fear of creating a scene. Teach your child to be persistent. In the event of a reaction, rapid treatment is essential.
  • After the event, briefly call or meet with your child’s teacher to discuss what went well and what, if anything, should be changed in the future. Be sure to give praise for a job well done; a thank-you note reinforces the idea of teamwork and builds a positive atmosphere.

For Educators

  • Update the food-allergic student’s Food Allergy Action Plan. Ask the parents to review the plan you have on file and note any updated information. Also ask parents to check the expiration dates on any medications.
  • Review the Food Allergy Action Plan with regard to the upcoming event. Find out where the nearest hospital is and discuss how a student would be transported there in case of an emergency.
  • Brief the staff and chaperones that will be supervising students during the event or trip. Identify the food-allergic student, discuss what foods must be avoided, explain the symptoms of an allergic reaction, and review the Food Allergy Action Plan. Designate a staff member to check the safety of any food served to that student.
  • The day of the event or trip, carry the food-allergic student’s medications wherever the student goes. In the case of a severe allergic reaction, known as “anaphylaxis,” speedy access to medications can be the difference between life and death. Keep all staff and chaperones informed about who will be carrying the student’s medications.
  • Carry a cell phone to place emergency calls, if necessary. Make certain all staff and chaperones know where the phone will be kept.
  • Take all complaints seriously. If a food-allergic student notifies the staff that he or she is not feeling well, compare the symptoms with those listed on that student’s Food Allergy Action Plan. If the student is having an allergic reaction, activate emergency procedures immediately. Remember, if epinephrine is administered, but not needed, the student may experience increased heart rate and nervousness. If epinephrine is needed, but not administered, the student may experience a severe or fatal allergic reaction.