As kids across the country get ready to go back to school, parents of kids with nut allergies may be wondering if their school has a nut-free policy. If it does, what does that mean for them and for their child? It’s not a clear-cut issue, and emotions can run high for those who want to protect their children, and those who want their kids to be free to eat their lunches without too much supervision.

School nurses and administrators say strict enforcement of nut-free policies is very difficult. It requires scrutiny of every snack and meal brought into school by every student, every day. It is also possible that school staff let their guard down if a nut-free policy is in place. This may inadvertently cause staff to ease up on their focus and monitoring. In one study of 1,960 Massachusetts schools, rates of epinephrine use were higher in schools with nut-free policies compared with those without. Rates were lower in schools with nut-free tables in the cafeteria.

So should schools adopt nut-free policies? For some schools, it is absolutely the best tactic. Other schools may choose a different approach. It is a decision that should be based on each school, including a careful assessment of resources, student population, and discussions with concerned parents.

David Stukus, MD, FACAAI, is a Fellow of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology and serves on the ACAAI Public Relations Committee. He is an Associate Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Allergy and Immunology at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. Dr. Stukus works every day with kids who are food-allergic, and knows a lot about the complicated issues surrounding the topic of nut-free schools.

Dr. Stukus is available to chat with you about this important back-to-school issue. Below are some additional facts about food allergy occurrence in schools.

• Deaths from food allergy are very rare, and almost always due to lack of access to, or delayed use of, epinephrine.• 16-18 percent of children with food allergies have had a reaction at school.• 25 percent of food allergy reactions at school occur in a student without a known food allergy.• Food allergy symptoms happen immediately after eating a food, happen every time the food is eaten and with the same symptoms.• Typical symptoms can include itchy red hives, swelling, trouble breathing, difficulty swallowing, and vomiting. • Symptoms may get worse with each reaction or over time, and may vary from one child to the next.• It is extremely rare for any exposure other than eating or drinking to cause a severe life-threatening reaction.• Airborne reactions to food allergens can occur, but when they do, it typically results from proteins released in the air from stove top cooking. • Removing food from a prepared dish (picking a nut off a brownie) is not safe and can still result in a reaction.• Soap and water or cleaning wipes do a good job of removing food allergens from surfaces and food preparation equipment. Hand sanitizers do not remove allergens.

Please let me know if you’re interested in speaking with Dr. Stukus. I’m happy to set up an interview.

Thank you!

HollisHollis Heavenrich-Jones – Public Relations Manager – American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) – 847-725-2277 – [email protected]