The American Academy of Pediatrics conducted a study concerning food allergies in infants and young children. They found that 64.9% of accidental allergic reactions in this age group were due to lack of vigilance and 50.6% of the food that caused the allergic reactions were given to the children by people other than their parents, including teachers. If you are the parent of a young child that has been diagnosed with a life-threatening peanut allergy, you may be concerned about placing your child in a day care or other type of child care environment due to the risks that are involved. Here are a few tips that can help.
Develop an Action Plan with Your Child's Allergist
Tell your child's allergist that your child will be enrolling in child care and that you wish to have an anaphylaxis action plan for the staff. This is a form that is filled out by the allergist and contains a protocol of what to do should your child ingest or come in contact with the offending food allergen. This plan will include the dosage recommendations for the prescribed life-saving medication (epinephrine auto-injector, antihistamine and a rescue inhaler), as well as instruction on how to administer the medication, particularly the auto-injector and inhaler.
Meet with the Staff to Train them
With proper education and vigilance, the child care staff can help keep your child safe while in day care. Your role as the parent of a child with a life-threatening food allergy is to educate your child's caregivers. Schedule a meeting with the staff members and go through the anaphylaxis action plan step-by-step. Make sure the staff members know how to recognize the symptoms of anaphylaxis, and how a young child may describe the reactions he or she feels. This is crucial because the life-saving medication can be more affective when administered as soon as possible.
Alarming Statistics to Tell the Staff
Sometimes, people don't understand how serious a food allergy can be, as evident in the findings you learned in the introduction paragraph. Here are a few other alarming statistics you may want to share with the child care staff.
- Peanut protein was found 110 days after it was first smeared on a table in a study, suggesting that the protein that causes life-threatening allergic reactions does not degrade over time. Thorough and regular cleaning of surfaces is vitally important.
- When washing hands with plain water, 3 out of 12 times the peanut protein was still found on the hands. Peanut protein was found 6 out of 12 times when washing with anti-bacterial hand sanitizer. The staff and the other children should wash their hands with soap and water after each meal. An alternative is to recommend a peanut-free day care environment.
Just a small amount of peanut can trigger anaphylaxis shock. It's important to remove the protein from surfaces and hands as soon as possible.
Chaperone Your Child on All Field Trips
Many child care centers and preschools take their children on field trips. It is strongly recommended that you chaperone your child on all field trips, because most field trips are not in controlled environments such as your child care center. As you learned in the previous section, peanut protein can linger everywhere. And, since you know your child better than the child care staff, you will be more likely to recognize allergic reactions sooner than the staff can.
One of most challenging things to do as a parent of a child with a life-threatening food allergy is to let someone else take care of them. But, your child will be well taken care of in child care, especially if you educate the staff and keep them on their toes. Keep this information in mind as you contact local preschools like Kid's Country Child Care & Learning Center and ask them about their policies concerning food allergies.