Many of us have probably spent time with one or more kids with serious, possible fatal, reactions to food—and did not even know it. Fortunately, no child has ever had a life-threatening reaction while I’ve been in charge. But had I known what I now know, some of my close calls would have never even happened.
So for anyone who is around children, here are some ways to ensure that no child has a reaction on your watch.
1. Don’t assume parents of kids with potentially fatal food reactions will tell you.
If you’re a parent, know whether any of your kids’ friends have allergies and what to do in case of a reaction. If you’re someone who works with kids, send home a questionnaire with the same questions.
2. If possible, reduce the chance of accidental ingestion by excluding common life-threatening allergens from group events.
This could be as simple as asking participants to forgo all nuts when making their dish for the potluck. Such a request not only reduces the possibility of accidental ingestion, but it’s a kind gesture that will be greatly appreciated by parents and kids who have to be vigilant about food choices away from home.
3. Remember that some kids are so sensitive that they can react to allergens in the air.
At our local Brain Highways Center, a child once had an adverse reaction to lingering peanut air molecules—even though she arrived at our center seven hours after a group of kids had made peanut butter clay that morning. After that, we decided that we’d no longer do anything—at anytime—with peanut butter at our center.
When you look at how little effort the suggestions above require—and how such simple actions can keep kids alive—it’s hard to justify glossing over them. For example, experts say that peanuts can kill an allergic person within three minutes after exposure either by ingestion or inhalation.
That’s why all of us have to do our part.
Part II: “How Parents of Kids with Fatal Food Allergies Can Help” will appear tomorrow.