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Back-to-School Tips to Avoid Food Allergic Reactions

5 Important Steps to Classroom Food Safety: As families prepare for back to school time, Gimbal’s Fine Candies, a allergen-free confectioner, is hoping to raise awareness of the dangers associated with food allergies and promote food safety in schools and classrooms around the country.

Food allergies in the United States are rising at an alarming rate, especially for children. In a ten year span between 1997 and 2007, food allergies in kids 18 and under increased by a whopping 18%, according to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology (AAAI).

There is no cure for food allergies, and the best method for managing food allergies is through careful avoidance of any food that triggers a reaction.  According to the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN), the cause of 90 percent of all allergic food reactions can be contributed to eight common foods: peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, gluten, soy, fish, and shell fish.  Symptoms commonly include one or more of the following:  hives, tingling in the mouth, swelling of the tongue and throat, difficulty breathing, abdominal cramps, vomiting or diarrhea, eczema or rash, coughing or wheezing, dizziness, and loss of consciousness.

Gimbal’s Fine Candies is one of the only major confectionery manufacturers in the USA that has committed to be free of these eight major food allergens.  In order to eliminate risk of cross contamination, these eight foods are not included in any of the company’s recipes, nor are they permitted inside their production and packaging facilities. Employees aren’t even allowed to bring peanut butter sandwiches in their lunch.

To help spread allergen awareness, Gimbal’s Fine Candies provides free samples, when available, to non-profit and community organizations working on behalf of those suffering from food allergies. To further empower families living with food allergies, the company has developed 5 easy tips to make it easier for parents to find peace of mind concerning their child’s well being at school.

1) Talk to your child about his or her food allergy

The first steps to safety at school start at home. Tell your child never to trade food from lunches or eat anything with unknown ingredients. Encourage him or her to be vigilant about washing hands and find food allergy friendly snacks that can substitute for unsafe foods.

2) Set a Food Allergy Action Plan with teachers and school administrators

Provided by FAAN, the Food Allergy Action Plan is available to customize according to your child’s needs. This includes making sure that your child and/or school officials have an EpiPen on hand and going through scenarios of what to do in the case of anaphylactic shock.

3) Seek out other parents of children with food allergies

It can help to surround yourself with a support group of other parents going through the same experience. This will allow you to have a group to lean on as well as keep a watchful eye out when you cannot be there.

4) Volunteer to be a chaperon on field trips or class parent during parties

Whenever outside food is involved, it never hurts to volunteer your time and even offer to bring allergen-free snacks for the class or group. It’s harder to maintain a sterile environment on buses and unfamiliar settings.

5) Get Involved

Currently there are several bills in legislation that could help expand access to life saving epinephrine, specifically H.R. 3627 or the School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act. You can reach out to local representatives and encourage them to support this bill that would make epinephrine mandatory in schools.

Karen Schwartzkopf has her dream job as managing editor of RFM. Wife, mother, arts and sports lover, she lives and works in the West End with her family, including husband Scott, who not coincidentally is RFM’s creative director. You can read Karen’s take on parenting her three daughters – Sam, Robin, and Lindsey, also known as the women-children – in the Editor’s Voice.

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