How important are pals to your child? Do they just drink up your kool-aid and leave their playstation games all over your living room floor? Well, imagine if one saved your child’s life.
To the three million school-aged children with food allergies, having PALs are important. A pal may teach them how to ride a bike, but a PAL could save their life. Be A PAL, the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network’s (FAAN) free school program, stands for Protect A Life from Food Allergies. It educates children to recognize a reaction, what to do in the event of a reaction, and what are the usual triggers. The American Medical Association (AMA) recommends that schools have a policy or guideline for children with food allergies, but some still do not. Is your school one of the many that doesn’t? Get involved and ask how your school can start its own PAL program. Online you can get a copy of the PAL brochure here:
And a copy of the PAL certificate for your child here:
Tips for being a PAL are:
• Make sure your child’s friends know what foods trigger a reaction. The top triggers (but not all) include: peanuts, soy, wheat, milk, egg, and shellfish.
• Keep a trainer EpiPen ï¿½ (a doctor prescribed shot of ephedrine) for buddies to practice giving your child his/her injection. Make sure your own child has practiced numerous times too.
• Make sure your child’s friends don’t share their lunches with him/her. Also, they should wash their hands after touching any food source, whether it is just crumbs or the entire thing.
• Encourage questions. Anaphylaxis (the severe life threatening allergic reaction) is scary. Let other parents, teachers, and kids know what to expect if a reaction does indeed occur. Symptoms include: swelling of lips, eyes, and face; red bumpy itchy skin; difficulty breathing or wheezing; coughs, sneezing, itchy watering eyes; or lightheadedness, dizziness, and passing out.
Even the Girl Scouts are getting into being a PAL. In cooperation with the Girl Scout Council of the Nations Capital (GSCNC), FAAN now has a patch for Girl Scout troops. More information can be found on the GSCNC website. For more information on food allergies, the PAL program, and other patient advocacy reports, the website address for FAAN is hwww.foodallergy.org. There is even free information for any school staff personnel on the FAAN site. They will provide informational packets for any elementary, intermediate, and high school staffer. You can nominate your school for a special edition of the School Food Allergy Program which will include a video, an EpiPenï¿½ trainer, poster, binders filled with information and other forms. This will help many across the nation manage their students who have food allergies.
What parents should do:
• Notify the school of the child’s allergies.
• Put the Food Allergy Action Plant to use. Provide written medical documentation, instructions, and medications as directed by a physician.
• Educate the child in their own self-management including: what foods are safe, what foods to avoid, the symptoms of allergic reactions, how to inject their EpiPenï¿½, how to relate to an adult that they are having a reaction, how to SIGN that they are having a reaction in case they cannot talk, and how to read the food labels in their school.
• Provide emergency contact information; make sure its in the office, the nurse’s station, with the bus driver, etc.
What children should do:
• Never kid about food allergies.
• Don’t share food, you never know how it was prepared.
• Wash hands after eating, sounds simple but it can save a life in this instance.
• Ask a friend what they are allergic to and help the friend avoid it.
• Get help immediately if a schoolmate has a reaction.