My son Matthew is starting Grade 8 and has a peanut/tree nut allergy. His teacher invited me to come and speak to his Grade 8 class concerning food allergies and anaphylaxis.
I spoke 2 years ago when my oldest son, Michael, was in Grade 8 with the same teacher.
As part of the students’ transition into highschool, I feel it is the perfect time to discuss the importance of understanding anaphylaxis.
The close-knit feel of grade school is shattered upon entering high school’s throng of students and teachers.
My goal is to raise an awareness of anaphylaxis in our students. How to recognize, react and administer an epi pen during an anaphylactic reaction. To demystify and destigmatize food allergies. To empower students to become ‘safe buddies’ for those students who have an anaphylactic allergy.
Students are the ’front line workers’ in a school setting.They know the ins and outs of things happening within the school. They will more than likely be the first at the scene of an anaphylactic reaction. They need to be prepared.
Grade 8 Presentation
There are 31 Grade 8 students in the class. Two have an anaphylactic allergy: bee stings and peanut/tree nut.
At the beginning of my presentation, I passed out a questionnaire with 4 simple questions:
1. Do you know anyone with food allergies? Family member?
2. What is anaphylaxis?
3. How do you know if someone is having an allergic reaction?
4. What would you do if someone was having an allergic reaction?
29 of the 31 students knew someone, outside of the two students in the class with an anaphylactic allergy, with a food allergy. 12 of them had someone in their family.
8 of the students had an idea of anaphylaxis.
I was impressed that the majority of the class would recognize an allergic reaction and knew to call 911 and to use an epi pen.
I asked them lots of questions:
Did they know what the top 11 food triggers were?
Peanut, shellfish, tree nuts, milk, fish, egg, soy, wheat, sesame, mustard (new),and sulphites (food additive).
What are some of the symptoms of someone having an allergic reaction?
Tingling in the mouth, swelling of tongue and throat, itchy skin, hives or redness of skin, difficulty breathing, wheezing, abdominal cramps, vomiting, faintness due to sudden drop in blood pressure, unconsciousness due to a severe anaphylactic reaction.
What is an epi pen? What is in an epi pen?
An auto-injector filled with epinephrine. (medication to stop an allergic reaction)
What are ways to prevent cross-contamination of food allergens?
Wash hands before and after eating in the classroom.
Read ingredient list on products for allergens.
Hands flew up to answer my questions. Again, I was impressed with their knowledge.
I demonstrated the proper way to administer an epi pen and let them practice.
I reviewed how they can be a ‘safe buddy’ to someone who has an anaphylactic allergy:
Know how to recognize and what to do in case of an allergic reaction.
Know where medications are kept.
Know how to administer an epi pen.
A few students were eager to tell me their stories regarding allergic reactions or family members with food allergies.
They also asked lots of questions. They wanted to know more. It was exciting!
I brought , dairy,egg,peanut/tree nut free chocolate chip cookies to share with the students. I talked about how important it is to read food labels to know if there is a potential allergen within the product. Important step to take when a fellow classmate has a food allergy.
I showed them a chocolate chip package. (Enjoy Life) It had written on it ‘made in a dedicated nut and gluten-free facility’. There is also an easy to read list of ingredients that the chocolate chips do not contain.
In regards to Matthew’s peanut/tree nut allergy, I discussed bringing in baked goods from home. Anything from a bakery, prepackaged baked goods, and baked goods made at home may contain traces of peanut/tree nuts.
Giving the teacher a ‘heads up’ that treats from home would like to be brought in, allows the student with the food allergy, time to bring a ‘safe treat’ from home.
Matthew is fortunate to be surrounded by classmates, parents and teachers that over the years, have taken the care to understand his allergy to peanut/tree nuts.
A big thank you to you all!
As a mother, with two boys with food allergies, I feel confident knowing there are now 31 students aware of anaphylaxis entering Grade 9 next year.
Upon Matthew’s return from school that day, I asked him how he thought the presentation went. He gave it a two thumbs up!
Good thing……I have been asked to speak to the Grade 7 class next!
Tip 1. Anaphylaxis Canada,The Allergy Asthma Information Association (AAIA), and Epi Pen have great web sites to learn more about anaphylaxis and epi pens.
Tip 2. Allergic Girl – adventures in living well with food allergies, is a fantastic book for all those living with food allergies. She discusses the importance of having a ‘safe friend’, as well as strategies for travelling, dining out and living without fear. I will be blogging a book review soon.
PS: As always, any products I mention in these posts are my own personal recommendations. No one’s paying me to recommend them. They’re just what has worked for our family. Your own needs and preferences may be different!