Parents should provide schools with student allergy information
With the recent death of a child at a Virginia school from a peanut allergy, parents are reminded to keep schools up-to-date on their children’s allergies, particularly food allergies.
All counties in West Virginia require a special form to be completed and a medical statement from a licensed medical practitioner if a special diet is required for a child, said Child Nutrition Director Kristie Randall.
Food allergies and food substitutions must be spelled out in the special dietary needs medical statement. A copy goes to the school secretary, the school nurse and the school cafeteria manager, she said.
They try to mail out the forms every year to kids who have food allergies for updates. They also give them out to new children that enroll and at kindergarten registration.
Parents must provide the medications that children need for their allergies-food or other-to the school nurse and there has to be a doctor’s order to administer the medication, said Widmyer Elementary Assistant Principal Ginnie Molnar.
If a child’s allergies are severe, a health care plan is implemented and the medication, generally an epipen or epinephrine injection, has to travel from class to class with the child in case a life-threatening allergic reaction occurs. All of the child’s teachers are trained how to use it, Randall said.
The state has advised school systems not to remove nuts from school menus so other children can still enjoy them, Randall said.
Cooks are trained to read labels and look for peanuts or tree nuts or any cross contamination that could occur when other food products are manufactured at a facility that makes products containing nuts. Bleach water must be used to clean surfaces where products with nuts have been prepared.
There is no guarantee to move a food out of a school system, she noted.
“Kids bring in packed lunches all the time. You have no idea what’s in them,” Randall said.
If a licensed physician—a medical doctor (MD) or a doctor of osteopathic medicine (DO)— prescribes a special diet for an individual with disabilities, agencies with federal child nutrition programs must provide it, according to information from the West Virginia Department of Education.
Agencies may also provide modified diets to non-disabled individuals if a medical doctor, a doctor of osteopathic medicine, a nurse practitioner or a physician’s assistant supports it with a medical statement.
If a child’s allergies have changed or intensified or if new allergies have emerged, parents are advised to let school officials know right away.