From classroom trends to school board decisions, Class Act will keep you updated on all the school issues followed by the Star Tribune’s education reporters. Contributors include Steve Brandt, who covers Minneapolis; Kim McGuire, who covers the west metro; Erin Adler, who covers the south metro; Anthony Lonetree and Libor Jany, who cover St. Paul and the east metro, and Paul Levy and Shannon Prather, who cover the north metro.

CDC issues guidance for schools trying to protect students with severe food allergies

Posted by: Kim McGuire Updated: October 30, 2013 - 2:15 PM

Every parent who's had a child attend a school party in recent years knows the drill - don't bring any food than contains peanuts, hazelnuts, walnuts, or any nuts for that matter.

On Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention put that common sense advice into its first ever set of guidelines for schools faced with the growing number of students with severe food allergies.

Many schools already have policies in place, but the federal government had yet to formally weigh in on the issue of food allergies in schools.

The guidelines, which states can choose to implement or not, suggest several logical approaches such as identifying kids who have food allergies, making sure teachers know what allergic reactions look like, and safeguarding school parties and field trips.

Another suggests schools make sure there are enough epinephrine on site to deal with severe allergic reactions.

That's a step Minnesota schools took after a 2004 law was allow students to carry prescribed epinephrine on them at all times. More recently, the state passed a law permitting schools to keep an emergency stock of epinephrine auto injectors on-site.

"Until then, what was often happening was it was locked up in a nurse's office," said Nona Narvaez, executive director of the Anaphylaxis and Food Allergy Association of Minnesota. "There were a lot of close calls."

Still, some schools could do a better job managing events like parties, snacks at special events and other occasions that might bring an allergen into the classroom, she said.

"Twenty five percent of anaphylaxis that occurs in schools settings happens with students who were previously undiagnosed," Narvaez said. "These are kids who didn't know they were allergic to bee stings, peanut butter, or wheat or whatever."

In other food allergy news, the U.S. Senate Health Education committee on Wednesday passed a measure that would provide incentives to states that pass epinephrine stocking laws.

No doubt parents of children with severe food allergies will be on their guard tomorrow as trick or treating commences.

The Anaphylaxis and Food Allergy Association of Minnesota is sponsoring a Halloween allergy free zone tomorrow at the Mall of America. For more information, please go here

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