Letter to My Son’s School and Classmates

This is the letter I typed up for my son’s preschool and classmates that was handed out with the other school paperwork at orientation. I thought it may be helpful to others~Please feel free to copy, change or use as you see fit. I believe that most all the allergy information I provided came from the FAAN website.

Greetings to all [Preschool] Parents!

My name is Jenny Sprague, and our son, Caleb will be attending the M-W-F classes at the [Preschool] this fall. I am writing this to inform and educate others about our special circumstances with regard to our son and his food allergies. Caleb is allergic to: Peanuts, all tree nuts and dairy.

Caleb was diagnosed at 1 years old with severe peanut allergies after having a severe reaction from touching peanut butter then touching his face!~ He did not even ingest it! [thank goodness!] but his whole face swelled up, his eyes were red, watery, and he became very congested, and wheezy. We also ran into some milder reactions when a boy I watched, came to our house with some of his own toys that had peanut butter residue on them, and my son reacted to them.

Caleb is ALSO allergic to Dairy, and Tree Nuts. So no milk, butter, ice cream, cheese, no food with almond extract, nutmeg, almonds, walnuts, etc. No chocolate [it contains milk, and usually nuts or processed at a factory which uses nuts], no M&Ms, or Jelly Belly Jellybeans, We have to be careful about Acorns, hazelnuts, beech nuts, etc. We also have to be careful with foods that get cross contaminated- [for example donuts on the same sheet with the nut covered ones at the grocery store].

We carry an Epi-Pen Jr. at all times in case of an emergency. I am happy to show how to use it to anyone, and I have a print out available with ingredient lists to watch for; if anyone is interested please let me know! For more information you can research on the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) website: http://www.foodallergy.org/section/education

Caleb is pretty good about knowing what is “his-safe” and about asking. And I have no objections to providing safe treats for him if everyone is having [cake, ice cream, cookies etc]. I know this can be a real inconvenience~ believe me I know!~ but for the health of our son, I hope that you can help us keep him safe!

What is a food allergy?:  Food allergy occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks a food protein. Ingestion of the offending food may trigger the sudden release of chemicals, including histamine, resulting in symptoms of an allergic reaction.  The symptoms may be mild (rashes, hives, itching, swelling, etc.) or severe (trouble breathing, wheezing, loss of consciousness, etc.). A food allergy can be potentially fatal. Scientists estimate that approximately 12 million Americans suffer from food allergies, or one in 25. One in 17 children age 3 and under has a food allergy.

Symptoms:  Symptoms may include one or more of the following: a tingling sensation in the mouth, swelling of the tongue and the throat, difficulty breathing, hives, vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, drop in blood pressure, loss of consciousness, and even death. Symptoms typically appear within minutes to two hours after the person has eaten the food to which he or she is allergic.

Treatment:  Strict avoidance of the allergy-causing food is the only way to avoid a reaction. Reading ingredient labels for all foods is the key to avoiding a reaction. If a product doesn’t have a label, individuals with a food allergy should not eat that food. If you have any doubt whether a food is safe, call the manufacturer for more information. There is no cure for food allergies. Studies are inconclusive about whether food allergies can be prevented.

Epinephrine, also called adrenaline, is the medication of choice for controlling a severe reaction. It is available by prescription as a self-injectable device (EpiPen® or Twinject®).

Prevention:  Studies are inconclusive about whether food allergies can be prevented. Parents should become familiar with the early signs of allergic disease such as eczema, hives, repeated diarrhea and/or vomiting in reaction to formulas, wheezing, and talk to a doctor about those symptoms.

At this time, no medication can be taken to prevent food allergies. Strict avoidance of the allergy-causing food is the only way to prevent a reaction. Medications are administered to control symptoms after a reaction occurs.

Researchers also looked at methods for cleaning [peanut allergen-Ara h 1] from surfaces. They found that common household cleaning agents, such as Formula 409®, Lysol® Sanitizing Wipes, and Target brand® cleaner with bleach, removed peanut allergen from tabletops (except for dishwashing liquid, which left traces of the allergen on 4 out of 12 tables).

For removal of peanut allergens from hands, liquid soap, bar soap, and commercial wipes were very effective. Plain water and antibacterial hand sanitizer left detectable levels of peanut allergen on 3 out of 12 and 6 out of 12 hands, respectively.

Is there a cure for food allergies?:  Currently, there are no medications that cure food allergies. Strict avoidance is the only way to prevent a reaction. Many people outgrow their food allergies, although peanut, tree nuts, fish, and shellfish are often considered lifelong allergies. Research is being done in this area, and advances are being made. Click here for research information.

What is the difference between food allergy and food intolerance?:  Many people think the terms food allergy and food intolerance mean the same thing; however, they do not. Food intolerance, unlike a food allergy, does not involve the immune system and is not life-threatening. Lactose intolerance, trouble digesting the milk sugar lactose, is a common example. Symptoms may include abdominal cramps, bloating and diarrhea.

A food allergy occurs when the immune system reacts to a certain food. The most common form of an immune system reaction occurs when the body creates immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies to the food. When these IgE antibodies react with the food, histamine and other chemicals (called “mediators”) are released, causing hives, asthma, or other symptoms of an allergic reaction.

[At this point of the handout I attached the FAAN ingredient list of what to look out for, for the different allergens my son has].

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