A proposed food allergy management program will be brought for approval Monday to the Hinsdale-Clarendon Hills Elementary District 181 Board in an effort to bring consistency to the district’s nine schools.
Superintendent Don White said creating a food allergy policy for use district wide wasn’t addressed previously because it wasn’t brought up as a concern.
“The buildings were handling it pretty well,” he said. “This really is about predictability for our students, so that they know what to expect.
“It’s important that we do everything we can to be as prepared as possible for situations with food allergies because this really is life and death.”
District nurse Kristin Katsenes has been coordinating efforts as part of the district’s Food Allergy Committee, which also includes food service management, building nurses, parents and middle school teachers.
The program is a comprehensive management plan for emergency response to, education on, and prevention of allergic reactions occurring in the school setting. Katsenes said the program was modeled off of best practices from the food allergy management program at Deerfield Elementary District 109.
She said the focus of the plan is safety and prevention.
“We’ve been working on this policy because we want to get everyone on the same page in each building,” she said. “We want to make schools the safest place possible.”
Katsenes said education is a big part of the food allergy management program.
“There will be education for all stakeholders,” she said. “It’s important that parents who don’t have kids with food allergies are part of this. Undisclosed allergies is an issue, and it could end up being the parent of a kid who has an undisclosed allergy that will have to eventually deal with that.”
Katsenes said statistically, 1 in every 13 people under age 18, nationally, have a food allergy, a statistic also noted by the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology.
“That’s roughly two students in every classroom,” Katsenes said, noting that more than 200 students in the district have known food allergies and there were about five incidents in the past year for which an EpiPen was used on a student having an allergic reaction.
School nurses in District 181 keep EpiPens on hand that have been prescribed for specific students along with undesignated epinephrine auto injectors for needed use.
The most common allergies seen in district schools are to peanuts and tree nuts, Katsenes said. School lunchrooms in District 181 have peanut free tables designated for use by students who are allergic to peanuts.
“A lot of the incidents where there are allergic reactions take place outside of school,” Katsenes said.
She said the proposed food allergy management plan strikes a balance between the right and convenience of all students to eat what they like and the food-allergic student’s health, safety and social normalcy in the school setting.
When district staff receives notice that a child has a life-threatening food allergy, they will work with parents/ guardians to gather documents, information, and medications to develop and implement an appropriate safety plan.