With the number of children who have food allergies growing, one prominent senator with personal experience with the problem wants schools to be ready to intervene in potentially life-threatening situations.
Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, D-Conn., is sponsoring a bill that would set federal guidelines explaining how to ensure children don’t come into contact with allergens and how to intervene if they do. The bill also would authorize grants to help schools follow the guidelines.
Sen. Dodd, the chairman of the Children and Families Subcommittee, held a May 14 hearing on the bill.
“Obviously, having a child with food allergies heightens my involvement in it,” said Sen. Dodd, whose 6-year-old daughter has gone into anaphylactic shock four times after encounters with peanuts.
“Each time they go through that next [allergic reaction], it will be more severe,” Sen. Dodd said at a news conference.
At the hearing, researchers said the number of children age 5 and under identified as being allergic to peanuts doubled between 1997 and 2002.
Schools need to take a variety of steps to help those children, said Donna Kosiorowski, a school nurse supervisor in the 6,500-student West Haven, Conn., school district.
For example, they should set aside tables in the cafeteria where foods with peanuts won’t be eaten because some children can be sent into a severe allergic reaction merely by smelling them. Educators need to know how to recognize anaphylactic shock and how to intervene when it occurs, Ms. Kosiorowski said.
Last month, the House passed a bill that would require the Department of Health and Human Services to establish guidelines for schools to address students’ food allergies. But the bill doesn’t include any federal money to assist schools that choose to follow the guidelines.
A version of this article appeared in the May 21, 2008 edition of Education Week