CLEVELAND — After a long summer, back to school can be a relief for a lot of parents. But for parents of children with food allergies, it can be a time filled with anxiety and fear.
Dr. Sandra Hong, an allergist at the Cleveland Clinic, said protecting your child, who suffers from a food allergy, expands beyond the lunch room.
The most common allergies children suffer from are tree nuts, peanuts, milk, soy and gluten.
“There can be hidden foods that are allergenic that can cause allergic reactions for their children, and it’s things that you wouldn’t even think of,” she said.
Dr. Hong said it’s normally the younger kids you have to worry about — the ones in third grade and under.
“Someone who is going to be getting their hands in things like touching, grabbing, being a kid, and putting that into their mouth, that’s where we have the problems.”
Everyday classroom items can take on new threats if children ingest them.
Crayons are often made with soy. Finger paint can be made with wheat, milk, corn or oat. Chalk can be made with milk. Craft paste can be made with wheat.
It’s important for parents and teachers to read the ingredients and labels in every item the children will come into contact with.
“If they do any projects that use milk cartons or egg cartons with the little ones,” Dr. Hong said projects should be allergy-free, too.
“They put it into their mouth, that can cause an allergic reaction in a child that’s really severe," she says.
She said beware of macaroni art which can contain gluten and creating bird feeders with peanut butter or other seeds.
Dr. Hong said it’s imperative for parents to have a relationship with anyone your child comes into contact with at school.
“That can go from your bus driver, to the teacher, to the cafeteria helpers, it can be any of the art teachers. It's really important to make sure that you get in, talk to the people that you feel like you need to and really come up with a plan for your child,” she said.