Kids: They will literally chew on their own shoes if you let them, but will refuse an entire plate of pasta over a single pepper flake. Anyone who has picky eaters understands the struggle of hearing a tiny version of yourself cry because you cut up a pancake instead of “leaving it big”.
But when it comes to dietary limitations due to food allergies, the results of presenting a child with the wrong food can be life-threatening. Finding the right food allergy form for your child care center could prevent a disaster from taking place in your facility. In this article, we’ll be discussing all you need to know about childhood allergies and how to handle them.
Table of Contents
- What are food allergies?
- What are the most common types of childhood food allergies?
- How to identify an allergic reaction in children
- Creating an allergy action plan for your child care center
- 4 food allergy sample forms for child care centers
What are food allergies?
A food allergy is an immune system reaction that takes place shortly after eating a certain food.
No one really understands the cause of this occurrence, but it is more common in children than adults. Kids will usually grow out of certain food allergies as they age, but some maintain the allergies into adulthood.
It’s also important to note that food allergies differ from food intolerances. Food intolerances occur when the body has an issue digesting a certain food, whereas food allergies result in an allergic reaction caused via an immune response.
For preschool teachers and staff, it’s important to always verify with parents whether a dietary limitation is due to an allergy rather than an intolerance, as some parents may not disclose the difference.
What are the most common types of childhood food allergies?
About 90% of all food allergies in kids are caused by the same 8 foods. It is important to speak with parents of younger children and discuss when their child switches over to solid foods, and if they’ve tried any of the top allergens. Be extra cautious when presenting a food that has a higher likelihood of causing an allergic reaction to a child that has never been exposed to the food type before.
Here are the 8 most common foods children are allergic to:
#1. Cow’s Milk
Cow’s milk allergies are mostly seen in infants, with 53% of children under the age of 1 displaying an immune response. The number drops to 41% of 1 to 2 year-olds, 34% of 3 to 5 year-olds and 15% of 11 to 17 year-olds. Keep in mind, a milk allergy is different from lactose intolerance, which is the body’s inability to effectively digest lactose. Cow’s milk allergies are most commonly caused by two different proteins, casein and whey
Egg allergies can be a bit more diverse in terms of when they cause a reaction. Some children only have reactions to certain types of bird eggs, while others can have them cooked only a certain way. Allergies are due to three major proteins in eggs: ovomucoid, ovalbumin, and ovotransferrin.
Fish allergies are more common in adults than in children, but can still be present from time to time. If a child has a fish allergy, always discuss the details with the parents. Some children are only allergic to one or two types of fish, while others can’t have any at all.
Shellfish allergies differ slightly from fish allergies. They usually include an allergy to shrimp, lobster, crab, crayfish, and clams. Unlike with fish allergies, it is more common for shellfish allergies to be present in more than one type of shellfish. Meaning if a child can’t eat shrimp, it’s likely they will also be allergic to crab or lobster.
#5. Tree Nuts
Tree nut allergies include foods like walnuts and pecans. Reactions to tree nuts tend to be more severe than other food groups, so be sure to keep a keen eye out for any students listed as having this one.
When you think of childhood food allergies, this is usually the first thing one comes to mind. Peanuts are the most common food allergy in children, and most people experience the allergy life-long, with only 20% growing out of it. Allergies to peanuts have become so common, many schools are banning them entirely from their premises.
Wheat is a more common allergy in early childhood, and approximately 65% of children will outgrow it by the age of 12
The majority of people allergic to soybeans are under 3 years old. This is a very common allergy in young children, and is often outgrown with age.
The most common food allergens in children tend to be peanuts, milk, soybean, tree nuts, eggs and wheat. Children are most likely to grow out of allergies to foods like milk, egg, wheat and soy.
How to identify an allergic reaction in children
Now that you’re armed with an allergy list for your child care centers, it’s time to understand how to spot an allergic reaction, just in case.
This can be tricky as allergic reactions appear differently for each person, and can often be difficult to identify in younger children. The most common food groups to cause deadly reactions called anaphylaxis include shellfish, tree nuts and peanuts.
Signs a child is having an allergic reaction often include:
- Hives or welts
- Flushed skin or rash
- Face, tongue, or lip swelling
- Vomiting and/or diarrhea
- Coughing or wheezing
- Difficulty breathing
- Loss of consciousness
What is anaphylaxis?
Anaphylaxis is an immune response that causes a release of chemicals that send the body into shock.
Children with a known history of anaphylaxis will usually be prescribed an epi pen, a device that contains emergency medication called epinephrine. This device should always be available to care takers. Teachers should regularly practice administering an epi pen via a practice device that is frequently packaged with the prescription.
Not all people will experience every single symptom of anaphylaxis when it occurs. It is important to always call 911 after administering an epi pen to ensure the person can be monitored for effectiveness, and given additional care as needed.
Symptoms of anaphylaxis can include:
- Rapid, weak pulse
- Skin rash
- Low blood pressure
- Difficulty breathing
- A change in voice
Creating an allergy policy and action plan for your child care center
With multiple children under the care of a single teacher, it is so important to have an action plan for food allergies.
Keeping a centralized document teachers can easily refer to that says “Jeff can’t have peanut butter but bananas are fine, he just refuses to eat the bottom half for some reason” could actually be life saving.
Many care facilities choose to lean on allergy forms specifically for child care centers. What you include in your center’s allergy policy depends on what you think would be most beneficial for your staff, families and above all, children.
We’ve compiled a list of examples of food allergy forms for child care centers below:
Seattle & King County’s Public Health Allergy Form
Why We Like It: This form is great because it gets the pediatricians involved as well. On top of that, it asks parents to outline the difference between an allergy and an intolerance. It also has them highlight the severity of the reaction, as well as medication management and instructions on administering it.
Why We Don’t: The form is really drawn out with a lot of check-boxes. It can be difficult for staff members to go through each student and easily determine who’s allergic to what. When it comes to a life-threatening allergic response, the time it takes to locate the allergy information can be so important to the outcome.
Maryland Public School’s Allergy Plan
Why We Like It: This plan is great for highlighting if/when statements. Parents can select the symptoms a child will display with an allergen and instruct teachers on when to use emergency medication vs. standard antihistamines such as benadryl. This takes the guesswork out of treatment, and helps the parent feel confident with how you’ll handle their child’s food allergy.
Why We Don’t: This form is only for one specific allergy. If a child has multiple allergies, there are going to be a lot of forms to go through to find the right one.
Hope Lutheran Church Preschool’s Allergy Action Form
Why We Like It: This form is really easy to read and it actively reassures parents the school is already taking precautions to eliminate certain allergens from campus. This will provide parents of children with allergies peace of mind right out of the gate. We also like how this form highlights the sensitivity level of the allergy by having a parent select whether or not the child can be around trace amounts of the food.
Why We Don’t: This form only highlights a few different foods. If a child is allergic to something other than peanuts or tree nuts, the school may not have the details of that allergen. It also does not contain instructions on what to do if a child were to show symptoms of a reaction or become in contact with a known allergy
A better way to document allergies in the classroom
As you can see, physical forms are very difficult to keep organized and utilize in a timely manner should you need them.
When it comes to childhood food allergies, there are many important details you’ll need to track for each child, and keeping everything together and accessible for each teacher is going to be difficult.
Between managing medications, understanding the symptoms children are likely to experience, and knowing how and when to call for emergency assistance — there needs to be a better way to document food allergy information at busy schools and centers.
Life threatening reactions can happen in a matter of seconds after a child is exposed to an allergen, so teachers need to be equipped with the right tools to handle the situations as fast and efficiently as possible.
This is why our team at MomentPath created a virtual and dynamic Allergy Indicator in our child care app.
Children with a known allergy will have a red alert indicator next to their profile, right on their teacher’s phones.
If an issue ever arises, teachers and staff can easily view and access the profile within seconds. Allergy alerts can also be expanded to provide information on how to handle the reaction, how to administer medication, and who to contact.
Not a User Yet?
Schedule a demo to see LineLeader in action.
Already a User or Simply Want to Learn More?
Download the benchmark report to expertly grow and manage your childcare business.