Food allergies are a serious concern, and there are dancers and ballerinas out there with unpredictable reactions to foods. Dance moms and teachers need to be aware of allergies, reactions and what to do in a situation should a dancer begin to react to food.
We spoke with Nancy Giles of Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) about how to keep our dancers safe and healthy!
The most common food allergens in children are milk, egg, wheat and soy. Additionally, studies show that there has been a tripling in peanut allergy among children between 1997 and 2008.
Food allergies are a serious and growing public health concern. They are scary because food allergy reactions are unpredictable – symptoms can be mild, but they can be severe and potentially fatal too.
Teachers, as well as anyone tasked with a caring for a child with food allergies, should understand that food allergies are potentially life-threatening. Parents of students with food allergies should set aside time to ensure that teachers understand how to care for kids with food allergies and to go over the child’s Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Emergency Care Plan (you may download one at www.foodallergy.org). This should include, at a minimum, going over food allergy basics, knowing what foods are safe, and training on the use of an epinephrine auto-injector.
Follow the instructions on the child’s Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Emergency Care Plan – this may involve administering epinephrine and calling 911. Be prepared to act quickly, because seconds count in anaphylactic emergencies.
Remember that food allergy reactions are unpredictable. Trace amounts of an allergen can cause a serious reaction such as an anaphylaxis (a whole-body allergic reaction). And remember that anaphylaxis can progress rapidly, and may not always present with skin symptoms. Always read labels.
Above all, safety and inclusion should be the focus during celebrations and gatherings. If there are students with food allergies, learn which allergens are being avoided and make sure that none of the foods served during celebrations contains their allergens. If multiple food allergies are being avoided, consider having food-free celebrations. Playing games and handing out inexpensive trinkets can be just as fun. Use washable tattoos or stickers as rewards rather than candies.
Teachers should familiarize themselves with symptoms of an allergic reaction. Students with food allergies should have a written plan (such as FARE’s Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Emergency Care Plan), signed by a physician, that outlines the allergens and treatment instructions for an allergic reaction.
Symptoms to Look For:
- Hives (reddish, swollen, itchy areas on the skin)
- Eczema (a persistent dry, itchy rash)
- Redness of the skin or around the eyes
- Itchy mouth or ear canal
- Nausea or vomiting
- Stomach pain
- Nasal congestion or a runny nose
- Slight, dry cough
- Odd taste in mouth
- Uterine contractions
- Obstructive swelling of the lips, tongue, and/or throat
- Trouble swallowing
- Shortness of breath or wheezing
- Turning blue
- Drop in blood pressure (feeling faint, confused, weak, passing out)
- Loss of consciousness
- Chest pain
- A weak or “thread” pulse
- Sense of “impending doom”
Kids with food allergies can participate in any activity – in most cases, food allergies shouldn’t limit kids from doing what they love. Stay vigilant, always carry epinephrine, and read labels.
We would recommend that teachers educate themselves about basic food allergy facts and anaphylaxis. Understanding how to avoid the allergen, recognize symptoms and respond appropriately to reactions is key.
Food allergies are not a lifestyle preference. Children don’t have a choice in the matter. Food allergy is a potentially life-threatening disease, and it’s important to ensure that we have empathy for kids with food allergies and don’t exclude them.