How Can I Manage a Peanut Allergy in School?

Kristeen Moore

A peanut allergy is a serious type of food sensitivity that can potentially be fatal if you are exposed to the nuts. It is easier to manage peanut allergies at home than at school because your household is in control of the foods eaten. When at school, it is important that you check all available ingredient labels in the cafeteria and to avoid any questionable foods. It is also helpful to let the cafeteria staff and your teacher know about your allergy so that they can help to prevent the onset of a reaction. Be prepared to self-inject epinephrine shots or give them to your school’s nurse in case of a severe reaction to a peanut allergy in school.

Letting cafeteria staff known about a peanut allergy can help someone avoid them in food.
Letting cafeteria staff known about a peanut allergy can help someone avoid them in food.

The best way to prevent peanut allergies is to avoid the nuts entirely. Some foods contain traces of peanuts, including baked goods, candy, and ice cream. Other types of processed foods and sauces can contain traces of peanuts as well, so it is best to avoid these unless you know for certain that the dishes are truly peanut-free. Read ingredient labels to see if a particular food contains peanuts and avoid those that are prepared on the same equipment that was used for peanut-containing versions.

An allergy to peanuts can be life-threatening, so avoid peanuts and their oil when cooking for or near anyone with peanut sensitivities.
An allergy to peanuts can be life-threatening, so avoid peanuts and their oil when cooking for or near anyone with peanut sensitivities.

A peanut allergy in school should be made aware to the appropriate faculty members at school. Your teacher can help you to avoid a reaction by looking out for shared peanut-containing foods. The school’s chefs should be notified so that they will not give you any foods that have traces of peanuts. Also notify the school nurse and consider giving him or her epinephrine shots to have on hand in case of an emergency.

People with food allergies should read labels carefully to ensure there are no hidden allergens in the product.
People with food allergies should read labels carefully to ensure there are no hidden allergens in the product.

Preventive measures sometimes do fail, and you might accidentally ingest traces of peanuts in school. A mild reaction, such as a minor skin rash, can be treated with a topical antihistamine cream. A peanut allergy in school does pose the risk of anaphylaxis, a type of severe allergic reaction that can be fatal if left untreated. The body shock associated with anaphylaxis can be minimized by injecting the correct dosage of an epinephrine shot prescribed by your physician, so it is important that these are on hand at all times while you are at school. You will still need to be taken to the hospital after receiving an epinephrine shot.

Immunotherapy might also be a solution if you have repeated reactions to a peanut allergy in school. Also called allergy shots, this type of treatment utilizes doses of peanut extracts which are injected into your skin. The purpose is to build your immune system to peanuts overtime. If your doctor recommends immunotherapy for your peanut allergies, it is still important to avoid peanuts at school; allergy shots can take at least six months or longer to take effect.

Avoiding peanuts altogether is the best way to manage a peanut allergy in school.
Avoiding peanuts altogether is the best way to manage a peanut allergy in school.

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Discussion Comments

Rotergirl

Yeah, when I was in school, if you had a food allergy, you took your own lunch. It was kind of a personal responsibility sort of thing. You didn't expect the school to make 500 other kids adhere to your specialized dietary needs. You provided for your own.

Obviously, teachers and administration need to know about something like this, so they can help a student if someone brings in outside cupcakes or something that might have nuts in them. A girl with a severe peanut allergy was in my fourth grade class back in the Dark Ages, and we all knew about it. We made sure nothing with peanuts entered the classroom.

And being bullied because of allergies? Get out of here! We may not have understood why my classmate couldn't eat peanuts, but we knew if she did, she could die. Nothing funny about that, and certainly nothing to warrant bullying. Anyone who bullied someone about a life-or-death issue was lower than dog crap in my social circle.

Pippinwhite

The easiest way to avoid triggering a reaction at school is to take your own lunch -- simple as that. That way, you eat what's safe for you. If you want to eat lunch in the cafeteria, stick to those things that pretty obviously don't have nuts, like salad with a dressing you bring from home.

Peanut oil usually doesn't trigger a reaction since the compounds that cause the reaction are basically burned up in the hot oil, but always check with your doctor, first.

And carry that epi-pen. Don't give it to the nurse. Have your parents tell the school administration about it, but the person with the allergy should always have the epi-pen, if they're old enough to give themselves the shot. They could go into cardiac arrest by the time the nurse gets to them, if the reaction is severe enough.

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