How to Keep a Child With Nut Allergies Safe at School

nutallergyWith emerging data from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing that food allergies have been on the rise since 1997, more parents than ever are facing the scary prospect of sending their children to schools where contact with common food items could mean dangerous or even fatal allergic reactions. Fortunately, the rise in food allergies has brought along with it a rise in awareness and precautions in many public school systems. These are a few of the ways you can keep your allergic youngster safe while he gets the education he needs.

  • Discuss the Matter with Teachers and Administrators – The first step towards ensuring your child’s safety and wellbeing at school is to set up a meeting with his teacher, school administrators and any school nurses on staff. Take the opportunity to explain your child’s allergy, the level of severity and your existing plan of action in the event of allergen exposure. In some cases, this initial meeting can be enough to get the ball rolling, and you may find that your child’s school is quite cooperative with his needs. Chances are your school has a formal protocol for managing student allergies.
  • Teach Your Child Never to Share Food – While telling a small child not to share something flies in the face of every lesson you’ve ever attempted to teach about the virtues and importance of sharing, it’s essential that he understands how serious it is for him to never share food. Even if a snack or meal appears to be nut free, without reading the packaging your child will not be able to successfully determine whether or not it’s been processed in a shared facility or if it came into contact with tree nuts at some point along its journey.
  • Coach Your Child About Reaction Symptoms – Every allergic reaction will have its telltale early symptoms, and your little one needs to be well-versed in how to detect and recognize them. This especially holds true for kids who are easily distracted or who don’t take their food allergies seriously enough to be diligent about avoiding exposure. Make sure he knows the first symptoms of allergen exposure, as well as how he should proceed after identifying an impending reaction.
  • Provide Him With the Vocabulary to Communicate Possible Reactions – Older kids who have lived with their allergies long enough to understand them may not have as much trouble communicating the possibility of an allergic reaction, but small children will need to be carefully coached. Make sure that you’re providing your child with the vocabulary he needs to let a teacher, administrator or nearby adult know that he’s suffering from the early signs of anaphylaxis or even a mild reaction.
  • Provide Auto-Injectors to School Administrators – If your child’s pediatrician recommends that you keep auto-injectors on hand to help mitigate the effects of an allergic reaction while waiting for emergency medical attention, it’s important to ensure that the school has a few on hand as well. The school nurse, all teachers and office personnel should have quick, easy access to auto-injectors so that your child is able to obtain potentially life-saving intervention if he’s exposed to nuts.
  • Research Peanut-Free Schools – While peanuts are legumes and not technically tree nuts, there is still a relatively high number of kids suffering from debilitating or even life-threatening peanut allergies. As a result, some schools have begun to institute “peanut free” policies. Looking for schools in your area that have such policies may be your best bet, especially if those schools are also maintaining a ban on tree nuts, as well.
  • Consider Homeschooling – Though it’s certainly not feasible for every household, sometimes the most effective method of keeping highly allergic little ones safe until they’re old enough to thoroughly understand the dangers of their allergy is to teach them at home. You’ll be able to keep your child in an environment that you know is safe without jumping through administrative hoops. Older kids who are the victim of bullying due to their allergies may also prefer this learning environment.

What to Do If Your Child Has an Asthma Attack at School

asthmaIf getting a call from the school nurse can be unnerving, hearing that your child just had an asthma attack at school is downright terrifying. This especially holds true if the call marks the first time an asthma attack has ever happened. The only thing worse for parents than knowing that their child is suffering is knowing that their child is suffering when they can’t be there with him. Since parents cannot be with their asthmatic child 24 hours out of the day, ensuring the child and teachers know how to manage his asthma is the next best thing. If you’ve been told your child has had an asthma attack in school, hang in there as you learn about what to do next.

First Things First

The first thing you’ll want to do is find out the status of your child. If it is not under control, the school may have called 911 or may ask you to pick up your child seek medical attention. The emergency room should be your first stop if the attack is still in progress, but an attack that’s under control or has ended may only require a trip to his regular primary care physician.

Create a Plan with Your Pediatrician

Once the initial attack is under control, let your pediatrician know what happened and then make an appointment to create an action plan for your child’s asthma. On this action plan, write down what triggers your child’s asthma, what symptoms he exhibits when he begins to have a flare up, what medications he takes, along with the dosage, what to do when an asthma attack begins, and when to head to the emergency room. You also may want to ask the doctor if there should be any restrictions or any extra monitoring during exercise.

Talk with Your Child

Teaching your child to manage his asthma independently is the best thing you can do when he’s old enough to attend school. Both you and your child need the security of knowing that no matter where your child is or who he is with, he can handle his asthma. Therefore, share the action plan with your child and frequently go over the steps to managing his asthma and handling attacks.

Talk with School Administrators

Share your written action plan with your child’s school and request a meeting with his teacher, the school nurse and anyone else you feel should be involved. Explain your child’s medical history and how independent he is in handling his asthma. Make sure you cover not only how to handle his asthma in school, but also on field trips and during any after school activities. Ask questions to ensure that there is always someone present who can administer medication and work the peak flow meter. It’s important that the school is supportive of your child’s condition, and that they handle it in a way that will not embarrass your child and deter him from maintaining his care.

Also, find out if you child is allowed to carry his own medication, provided that you feel confident in his responsibility level. If the school does not allow it, you can request a 504 plan under the Americans with Disabilities Act that allows him to have the medication on him.

Handling Attacks in School

Your child’s medication should be easily accessible. If he is too young or not yet responsible enough to carry it himself, the medication should be close at hand to the classroom teacher and in the nurse’s office in a place that is within quick reach. It should also be close at hand for gym class and recess. This way if your child has an attack, the medication will be there to be used immediately no matter where he is.

Know the Triggers

There are some common triggers that children encounter in school, such as dust mites, cockroaches, chalk dust, perfume and cleaning products, just to name a few. If any of these are known culprits for your child, you should work that into their 504 Plan. For example, you can request that they use dustless chalk, avoid perfumes and certain cleaning products, that the school is treated for pests regularly, and that methods be employed that combat mold. If the classroom has a pet, you can ask for that to be removed as well if your child is allergic or triggered by dander.

Once you have gone through all of these steps, you can rest much easier knowing that you and your child have a good handle on his asthma and that you have taken control of the situation as much as possible. Creating action plans and taking preventative actions can change a situation that once caused vulnerability to one that empowers.

The Risks of Buying Used Car Seats

carseatEven before you bring your newborn home from the hospital, you will be faced with a number of expenses for the requisite baby gear. One effective way of saving money on necessary equipment is to spring for high-quality, gently used items. However, while there are many things that you can safely purchase used, there are others that you shouldn’t take chances with. One of the risky items to purchase secondhand is a car seat, a piece of equipment so essential that it must be in place and properly installed before you’ll even be allowed to take your baby home from the hospital. Before you snap up a car seat at a rummage sale, flea market or consignment store, you should consider the risks involved.

  • You May Not Know the History of the Seat – Unless you’re buying a car seat from someone well known and very trusted, you have no real way of knowing a used seat’s history. Determining the expiration date, quality and reliability of a product designed to save your child’s life is imperative, and it’s just not easy to do when you’re buying a used car seat from someone you don’t know.
  • Previous Crashes Can Affect the Quality of a Car Seat – Even after a light fender bender, parents are encouraged to replace their child’s car seat. Structural integrity can be compromised by even the most minor of accidents, and signs of compromise aren’t always visible to the naked eye. A used car seat may have been in an accident of considerable severity without necessarily showing external signs of damage, but it will not be as effective should you find yourself in an accident of your own.
  • The Potential for Missing or Damaged Components – Kids are notoriously hard on the items they use every day. Even one missing or damaged component on a child safety seat can render it unsafe for use, and keeping up with a variety of components can be a challenge. You may not realize that something is missing from a used seat until you’ve already purchased it, which means that you may not have much recourse for securing a refund from a consignment store for a seat that’s essentially useless. Even worse, you may not notice a missing or damaged component at all until you’ve had an accident and the safety seat doesn’t perform as intended.
  • Determining Expiration – Food expires, medication expires, and so do car seats. Plastics become brittle as they age, especially when they’re exposed to the extreme heat and cold inside a car for a few years. Instead of protecting your child in the event of an accident, an expired seat may shatter or break. Expiration dates are sometimes stamped into the plastic casing, but that date isn’t always legible or can be difficult to find. With the purchase of a new car seat, you know exactly when it will expire.
  • Wear and Tear Damage is Not Always Visible – Babies chew on anything they can find, have accidents in their seats and become car sick. A car seat that’s been dropped from more than three feet at any time in its lifetime may be as damaged as if it were in a previous accident, and all of those signs of wear and tear can be difficult or even impossible to spot.
  • Outdated Seats May Not be Up to Current Safety Standards – Crash tests, safety research and technological advances all play a part in the process designers and manufacturers use to design car seats. Older seats may be outdated or lacking the most up-to-date safety features, in addition to being expired or damaged.
  • Missing Installation and Care Instructions – Anyone who’s ever attempted to install a car seat knows that doing so can be a feat of dexterity and skill. With a new seat, however, you will at least have the advantage of installation instructions in the packaging. Purchase of a used seat will rarely include care and installation instructions, as those have, more than likely, long since been tossed in a recycling bin. Without those instructions, you may not know if a seat is truly installed properly, and won’t be aware of any unique care instructions that may have been originally included in the packaging.

Common Ways Kids Get Injured on the School Playground

playgroundWhen the bell rings and the doors open for recess, kids everywhere make a beeline for their favorite spot on the playground. From swings to monkey bars, the typical school playground features a wide variety of structures and equipment that kids can enjoy a bit of unstructured, active play on to help break up the monotony of the school day. Those same structures can present a bit of an injury risk, though. In fact, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that more than 156,000 kids under the age of 14 will visit the emergency room each year as a result of sustaining an injury on a public playground.


Whether it’s a result of taking a header off the top of a jungle gym or attempting to leap out of a swing at the peak of its arc, falls are the single most common cause of childhood injuries on the playground. Data collected by SafeKids USA estimates that up to 75% of all playground injuries can be attributed to a simple fall. Short of discouraging risky behavior and hoping that the teacher is supervising her students carefully during recess, there’s little you can do to prevent falls from happening while your child is on the school playground. You may want to make a trip to the recess area yourself, though, just to be safe. Check for protective surfacing like shredded rubber, sand or padding, especially under high structures and swing sets.


Make sure that your kids know to never go down the slide with a friend, as tibia fractures can happen when the leg of the child in front becomes stuck and the child behind him cannot stop moving down the slide. The vast majority of these injuries are caused when small children ride down a slide in the lap or between the legs of an adult, but it’s still best to err on the side of caution when it comes to teaching kids a “one at a time” rule for using the slide.


One terrifying and tragic playground injury that’s more common than many parents realize is strangulation. Cords and pulls from hooded shirts or jackets, hoods themselves and other loose clothing can become tangled around bars and ropes on climbing structures, presenting a very real strangulation risk if a child should fall from that structure. Make sure that you remove the cords and drawstrings from any hooded garment your child owns, and consider investing in winter jackets with detachable hoods that your child can easily remove on her own before heading outside for recess.


Though most schools are taking huge strides when it comes to enforcing zero-tolerance bullying policies, it is still a problem for a large number of schoolchildren. The playground is one of the more common places for bullies to strike, especially if there are secluded or obstructed areas where they can accost victims without being easily seen by teachers or school administrators. With the crush of other kids and hectic pace of activity, it’s not always easy for teachers and supervisors to see the actions of one or two kids in particular. If your child is being victimized by a school bully, it’s wise to consult with school administrators and your child’s teacher to reach a solution that will keep your child safe.

When it comes to playground injuries, there’s not always much a parent can to do prevent them outside of taking precautions by removing drawstrings, dressing children appropriately and hoping for the best. One of the most effective ways of helping to keep your child safe is instilling a healthy respect for rules and guidelines, and making sure that your child knows what he should and should not do on the playground. Some kids are just naturally more willing to take chances and engage in risky behavior than others, and knowing how likely your child is to take on dangerous activities can help. Talk to your child about the importance of making safe choices and being careful on the playground, and look for everyday teaching opportunities to drive the point home.

How to Help Your Kids Deal With the Death of a Pet

petdeathCoping with the death of a pet — and the mess of feelings that comes with it — is one of the tougher parts of growing up. These feelings can be hard for everybody in the family, but they’re especially tough for young children. Children see pets as close friends and extensions of the family unit, and they have a great deal of importance in their lives.

The emotional stress and inability to deal with feelings associated with the death of a loved one are always important issues. Everyone experiences death differently and at different times, but most people usually progress through the five natural stages of grief made famous by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

Helping someone deal with the death of a loving pet is not always easy, especially when that person is a young child. Children are prone to ask questions that are emotionally based and have no easy answers, such as “Where is my pet? Is he in heaven?” While you may not have answers, these questions have to be discussed for the child to move forward emotionally.

Do not ignore the importance of a child’s distress, or lack thereof, hoping that the event will just pass over. Every child will deal with his feelings on an individual basis, and should be allowed to express himself openly. The age and maturity of the child, as well as the degree of closeness to the passed pet, will determine the power of the child’s grief, as well as his viewpoint of the situation. It is especially important as a parent or caregiver to understand that your No. 1 goal is to help the child understand how they feel, not necessarily have full comprehension of what has happened to the dog, cat or other pet that has died.

Many parents will immediately resort to what you might call the “goldfish method” of trying to “fix” the situation by acquiring another pet. This might seem like a good idea at first, but if your child is above the age of three, this can backfire badly, especially if attempted on the sly. In early development, there is nothing more important than creating a sense of trust and security between a caregiving adult and the child, and swooping in with a new pet can seem like a betrayal of that trust, leaving the child to feel extremely insecure.

Parents are not the only ones that can help facilitate proper handling of the feelings that come with a child’s pet dying. Caregivers, coaches, teachers and mentors can also help. When children are of school age, they may act out on this grief by being withdrawn, or even go in the other direction and lash out in anger. Knowing where a child is at in the five-stage grief cycle can be extremely helpful in understanding and heading off any inappropriate behaviors that might surface as a result of the sadness, anger, or fear that they feel.

It is very important when you are dealing with a grieving child that you do not try to “make” him feel a certain way. Getting to know the child’s true feelings is key to offering him the support and advice he’ll need to get through this hard time. For instance, you wouldn’t want to tell a child that there is no reason to worry about the dead pet because it’s a normal part of life, or simply assume that a child is sad when he may in fact be angry. Bad assumptions are not only of no comfort to the child, but they may also make him think his feelings are “right” or “wrong,” when this is obviously not the case. This can easily become a sticky subject when you are talking to a child of slightly older age who may initially harbor anger toward his own parents or the veterinarian that had to carry out the difficult decision of putting the family pet to sleep due to old age or illness, and who uses that anger as an emotional shield from the pain and sadness of loss that they feel.

If and when there is a family decision to get a new pet, be careful not to speak of or treat the new pet as a replacement. This can block progress on the stages of grief and may even lead to the abuse of the animal if the pet owner is not adequately adjusted to this very large change in their life in the appropriate fashion.

Remember: It’s OK for a child to feel a mix of emotions when he loses a pet. Your job isn’t to fix those feelings, but to help him understand and work through them on his own.

Helping Your Kids Deal With the Death of a Family Member

funeralLosing a family member is hard at any age; however, children often lack the life experience that adults rely on for developing the coping skills to get them through this difficult time. When a child loses a loved one, he can experience a variety of emotions that may range from confusion to anger. Children who lose a loved one after a prolonged illness may even feel guilty about having a sense of relief. Throughout the grieving process, children will frequently turn to the adults around them to seek answers regarding how to cope with losing their loved one. Whether you are a parent, teacher or caregiver, here is what you need to know about helping kids deal with the death of a family member.

Have an Honest Discussion
Breaking the news of a loss to a child is one of the most challenging conversations that parents can have. However, this initial conversation is what will pave the way for a child’s reaction. To initiate the discussion regarding a loss, plan for a time when you can sit down and talk to your child uninterrupted. Allow your child to react however he may need to without expressing judgment. After hearing about the death of a loved one, children may react with anger, fear or confusion. Very young children may even deny that the death has occurred. Finish up your first discussion by letting your child know that you are available to answer any questions that may arise later or just to offer a hug.

Use Concrete Language
During every discussion with your child, it is important to avoid using one of the many euphemisms people have for death (e.g., “passed away”). This is especially true for young children, who may take it literally if you say that their loved one is “resting.” If your child has questions about how the death occurred, be honest, but be sure to use language that is geared toward your child’s age and development.

Recognize the Signs of Grief
Understanding the different signs of grief will enable you to help your child through the grieving process. It is important to note that children will react differently depending upon their age and stage of development. For example, older children may feel guilty that they did not do something to prevent the death. This can occur even when there was nothing they could do to help their loved one. According to Mental Health America, young children may also revert to outgrown behaviors, such as sucking their thumb or wetting the bed. While many of these reactions are normal, it is important to keep a watchful eye for signs that grieving is becoming severe.

Coping With Prolonged Grief
Because of the wide range of emotions children can experience during the grieving process, it can be hard to know if a child is experiencing deeper trauma. However, Dr. Bruce Perry offers a few things parents should look for regarding severe grief reactions. For example, Perry explains that severe grief reactions may be unnaturally prolonged if they are still occurring six months after the death. Although children may still feel occasional bouts of sadness, they should be on their way to handling their emotions in a positive manner at this point. Any child who has grief symptoms that are prolonged or that interfere with his daily functioning may benefit from talking to a professional mental health counselor who is experienced in working with grieving children.

Be Available for Questions
As a child begins to accept the loss, she may still come to you with frequent questions. If you are also experiencing profound feelings of grief, it may be hard to talk about the loss, but your child depends upon you for support. Therefore, try not to avoid bringing up the death, and encourage your child to talk about it any time she feels sad. If you recognize feelings of guilt in your child, it is important to reinforce the concept that death cannot be prevented and that moving on with life does not mean that the loved one’s death did not matter. Death can be scary for children, so don’t shy them away from asking questions or expressing their fears. Help them see that death, while sad, is a part of life.

Surround Your Child with Support
When a child is learning how to deal with the death of a family member, he can benefit from having many different resources for finding ways to cope with grief. Let your child know that other family members are available to help him through this time. School counselors, teachers and other familiar adults will also be willing to provide support to your child once they are aware of the family member’s death. There are also support groups available where your child can meet other children who are also struggling with the loss of a loved one.

Helping your kids deal with the death of a family member begins the moment you have the initial conversation. By talking to your child openly and honestly, you will be paving the way toward better coping skills that will help your child throughout the grieving process. As your child begins to accept the loss, be sure to set up a memorial ritual that you can use to remember your loved one while providing your child with a healthy outlet for his grief. The goal isn’t to extinguish those feelings of sadness, but to help your child learn to understand them and incorporate them into a healthy view of life.

10 of the Most Common Food Allergies in Kids

eggsWhen it comes to kids’ health, food allergies are certainly nothing to sneeze at. While many food sensitivities and allergies cause little more than discomfort, itching or hives, there are those that can have potentially lethal implications. Before introducing new foods into a child’s diet, it’s wise to have a reasonable understanding of common food allergens and know the signs of an allergic reaction.

  • Eggs – Egg whites contain proteins that have been known to cause allergic reactions in kids and adults alike, with symptoms ranging from relatively mild to some as severe as anaphylaxis. While the protein is found in egg whites, it’s important that kids with an egg allergy avoid any egg products whatsoever.
  • Milk – The single most common food allergy among infants and young children is a milk allergy. An estimated 2.5% of kids under the age of three are allergic to milk, and most infants with a milk allergy develop it within their first year. Some kids do outgrow milk allergies as they get older, but only an allergist’s test is a safe way of determining whether or not a milk allergy has been outgrown.
  • Soy – According to the Food Allergy Research and Education group, the majority of children with a soy allergy will outgrow it by the time they’re ten years old. In that time, however, kids can suffer from reactions that are mild to very severe. Roughly 0.4% of kids suffer from a soy allergy, making it another common allergen.
  • Wheat – The most predominant grain product in the United States is wheat, and it’s also one of the more common food allergens affecting children. While the vast majority of wheat-allergic kids will outgrow their sensitivities before reaching adulthood, reactions can be severe in some cases, so it’s important to avoid any and all products containing wheat if a child in the family has such an allergy.
  • Peanuts – Between 1997 and 2008, the number of kids in the United States with a peanut allergy more than tripled. This common food allergy is becoming even more common with every passing year, and can be one of the most lethal food allergies. Kids with peanut allergies can have severe reactions from merely inhaling peanuts or coming into contact with them.
  • Tree Nuts – Reactions to tree nuts can be potentially fatal, and only about 9% of kids suffering from a tree nut allergy will outgrow it before reaching adulthood. Younger siblings of kids with established tree nut allergies may be more likely to suffer from the same sensitivities, according to the Food Allergy Research & Education network, so talk to your allergist about sibling testing.
  • Fish – More than half of people with a specific type of fish allergy are also allergic to other kinds of fish, so it’s wise to avoid all fish products if your child is allergic to one particular type. Most kids will not outgrow a fish allergy, and fish proteins that cause reactions can become airborne during cooking through steam.
  • Shellfish – Shellfish allergies are another common food sensitivity, but tend to be different from allergies to finned fish. A child who’s allergic to shellfish may not be allergic to finned fish, so it’s wise to talk about further testing with your child’s doctor if she’s exhibited signs of an allergic reaction.
  • Strawberries – There are specific proteins found in strawberries that some kids’ bodies recognize as foreign and harmful. Strawberry allergies are more common than many parents and caregivers realize, so it’s important to be cautious when introducing them into kids’ diets.
  • Kiwi – A study funded by the Food Standards Agency shows an increasing number of reported allergies to kiwi fruit, especially among kids who suffer from other allergies. This is another unexpectedly common food allergy, and a food with which parents and caregivers should introduce to a child’s diet with caution.

If a child begins exhibiting any signs of an allergic reaction or complaining of discomfort after eating a new food, it’s best to seek emergency medical treatment. Even if the reaction is a mild one or a false alarm altogether, you can’t be too cautious when you’re dealing with potential anaphylaxis.