Welcome to the NEW food allergy advice column, Get “Schooled” on Food Allergies with PTO Mom! Candy Richards shares some tips on how to make sure your child is safe in school as enrollments for the next school year are in full swing.

It’s that time of year again! It’s time to call your school to schedule a meeting to discuss the accommodations for your child with food allergies.

You should discuss with the school nurse what options you have regarding different food allergy management plans.

Here are a few options:

Food Allergy Medical Management Plan

(This plan should be part of the Individualized HealthCare Plan (IHP) and Emergency Care Plan (ECP)) developed by a student’s doctor and family. It outlines the proper procedures and should be signed by the student’s allergist, family doctor or certified registered nurse. This plan should include some information such as the student’s date of food allergy diagnosis, specific medical orders and emergency contact information.


Emergency Care Plan (ECP) (This plan is based on the information provided in the student’s Individualized Health Care Plan (IHP) and describes how to recognize a food allergy.

-usually coordinated byt the school nurse and should be distributed to all school staff who have responsibility for the student.


Individualized Health Care Plan (IHP) (This plan uses the process of assessment, diagnosis, planning, implementation, and evaluation to determine a plan of action for the student with food allergies)

-provides written directions for school health personnel to follow in meeting the individual student’s healthcare needs. While parental/guardian involvement is not required, I recommend you are involved as much as you feel necessary.


504 Service Agreement  (This plan outlines accommodations, educational aids, and services a student with food allergies may need in order to have equal access to educational opportunities as students without food allergies.)

– a plan of services developed under

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, to protect those with “disabilities” from discrimination. These plans can be used when schools are receiving federal funding.


If you do not know where to start, contact you child’s school now to get the process going for next school year. Good luck!


Have a question regarding Peanut, Tree Nut or Other food allergies in school? Want to suggest a topic for me to discuss? Follow Me on Facebook @ www.facebook.com/ptomom or Contact me @ pto_mom@aol.com and follow my Inspiredeats column here.

Get “Schooled” on Food Allergies With PTO Mom!

*All information on this page is not to be taken instead of medical advice.*


Unfortunately, children who have food allergies are often excluded from school events that have to do with food. Sometimes the teachers don’t think to ask if the food is safe for everyone in the classroom while planning the event or the PTO/PTA don’t think to accomodate everyone.

This tends to happen a lot and unfortunately, most of the time, we cant do anything about it.

Q: “When my son started 1 st grade, he was constantly coming home crying because he was left out of a classmates birthday party celebration with the class. He brought in cookies that wasn’t safe for my son. I felt so bad listening to him tell me about how everyone ate them in front of him and he just sat there with his hands in his pockets because the teacher told him to do that for his safety. I wanted to scream. How do you help your child feel included in things you have no control over?” Jamie T.

A: I completely understand how you and your child may feel right now. Have you tried to talk with your child’s teacher about a “safe snack bag” to be kept in the classroom for situations such as this one? I would try that first. Explain to the teacher that you do not want your child excluded from the celebration. Provide a travel size package of “wet one” wipes to clean your child’s area after the celebration is over so he doesn’t come in contact with any of the allergens. Making the child put his hands in his pocket while the celebration is going on may calm the teacher’s nerves but it will make the child feel as though they are being punished for having a condition they cannot control.


Q: “My daughter is allergic to peanuts, strawberries and milk. To ask for a nut-free classroom would be pointless,a s she has multiple food allergies. How do I make sure she is not excluded from school events when food is involved when the food is constantly entering the classroom?Matthew M.

A: In situations where a child has multiple food allergies, I always suggest if it is possible to make the classroom food-free. Ask if during celebrations, they can encourage non-food related activities and items (ex: stickers, face paintings, crayons, etc). If it is possible to make the classroom food-free that would have the best outcome. If that is not an option, or the school doesn’t want to do that route, try to be as involved in the classroom events as possible. Volunteer to be “classroom dad” and volunteer during occasions when you know that there will be a celebration (ex: Halloween, Valentine’s day, etc). I also advise that you provide the classroom with some safe snacks to keep in the teachers desk in the event that someone brings something in that is not safe for your daughter.


Q: My son was recently excluded from a school event for “his own safety”. They had a birthday celebration in the classroom with cupcakes. He is allergic to milk, eggs and wheat. Because of these being in the cupcakes, and him being in contact with them, the teacher sent him to the office to give the secretary some papers. (This was merely an excuse to get him out of the classroom.) The teacher later told me why he did that. What should I do so my son doesn’t feel left out?- Kathy J.

A: When teachers purposely exclude a child for “his own safety” is not only completely wrong but it hurts the child more than they realize. Unfortunately, this will happen from time to time because some people just don’t understand how to work with the condition instead of against it. I would definitely talk to the teacher, one on one, and discuss your concerns with how he handled the situation so it doesn’t keep happening. Put a plan in place that you both can work with so your child can be in the classroom during these special occasions. Try to give as many suggestions to the teacher as possible to help the teacher understand the allergy and how to handle situations like this. Good Luck!


Q: “My daughter is in class with a boy, who she loves dearly, that has nut allergies. She doesn’t have any food allergies herself. I am a member of the PTA and help plan a lot of the school events. This boy’s mother is very adamant about food allergies so I want to make sure that I don’t hear her wrath, lol.  How do I make sure that he is included in the activities while also not posing a threat to his health?” Anonymous

A: You sound like you are speaking about my son and me, lol. Let me first say that I am extremely touched that you would even try to understand and go out of your way to help this boy feel included because you, yourself, are not a food allergy parent. It is admirable of you to try to educate yourself on this, so I thank you on behalf of all of us food allergies parents. As for making sure he is included, I would first develop a list of “safe” snacks, candies and foods that are 100% safe for nut allergy sufferers. If you do not know where to start, ask his mother. I am sure she would be touched to know you care enough to ask and will be willing to help so her child is safe. Once you have a list of safe foods, try to provide everyone that is involved in the planning of PTA events with a copy. This will help with the communication on the proper foods. When planning events, do your best to plan non-food related activities. This will keep everyone’s mind at ease. Remember though, some non-food items contain nuts (ex: lotions, soaps, bird seed, etc) so please always check ingredients.


The question below is quite offensive but I felt it needed to be added to see how some parents react to the accommodations of children with food allergies to keep them from being excluded.

Q: “Please do not be offended at my next statement but why should I go out of my way to provide accommodations to a child with food allergies? I understand it is serious but if we have to accommodate for them then they are getting special treatment. Shouldn’t they just deal with it and work around it? I don’t mean to be hostile but I don’t feel like I should have to go out of my way and go to a thousand stores to find “safe” foods when the parents of the food allergy kid can provide them for their child and I can buy what I want to for the classroom party.” – Debbie K.

A: I understand your frustration however this is not about accommodating a food choice like being vegan. This is about accommodating a child’s life threatening condition to which they have no control over. Providing a safe alternative is something most food allergy parents do, for the safety of the child, however it means the world to the parents and the child when people care enough about that child’s life to make sure there is no chance that child could die from a “birthday celebration” of their classmate. Here is a suggestion for you to accommodate a child with food allergies; send in non-food products for the celebration and leave the cupcakes at home to be celebrated with the family or send in stickers, pencils, crayons etc; all of which can be bought at the dollar store. If you have to send food, because your child really wants to do that for their special day, I understand that. In that case, maybe ask the teacher if there are snacks, that they know of, that are definitely safe. Give them a few days in advance, so they can ask the food allergy parents for a safe food idea, or to provide them with time to provide their child with a safe alternative so you can buy whatever you want. In the end, it is about the happiness and SAFETY of the students so please be understanding that this is not a life choice; it is a life threatening condition.


Thank you all for you questions!



Have a question regarding Peanut, Tree Nut or Other food allergies in school? Want to suggest a topic for me to discuss? Follow Me on Facebook @ www.facebook.com/ptomom or Contact me @ pto_mom@aol.com and follow my Inspiredeats column here.

Get “Schooled” on Food Allergies With PTO Mom!

*All information on this page is not to be taken instead of medical advice.*

The day of the first reaction, we gave our son half of a peanut from the bag we received earlier that week. (We didn’t know he was allergic at that time.) Almost immediately, he started to act and look strange. Within seconds, his lips swelled up and started to turn blue. Then the vomiting began.

We were completely terrified and didn’t know what to do. We grabbed him and rushed him to the hospital. We didn’t know what was going on. They took him back, examined him and our worst fears were confirmed. Our son was diagnosed with a severe, life threatening allergy to peanuts; anaphylaxis, they called it.

He was later tested to find out if he had any other allergies. My son’s food allergies include: peanuts, cashews, and pistachios.

Here are some experiences from our readers:

“The epipen jr had to be used today on my pa/ta daughter. She is okay now, thankfully, but scared to go to school now because that is where it happened. A child brought in cupcakes for his birthday and the label was ripped off. The teacher said he checked them and they were okay. I got the container off of him after I got to school to take her to the e.r. and the label was ripped but you could see, “May conta”. I am assuming it said “may contain peanuts and/or tree nuts”. I am FURIOUS! However, that being said, I am glad she is okay. She is staying home tomorrow and I will be calling the school to speak with them about the importance of label reading. Thank you for letting me share.” – Meghan P.

To Meghan P:I am so very sorry your daughter had to have the epipen jr used on her today. Unfortunately, misunderstood label reading can be a major cause for allergic reactions. This is why reading, and sometimes, double reading the label is extremely important. To help your daughter feel better about being in school, try providing her with a bag or Tupperware box, of safe snacks to keep in her classroom. This way she can just go straight to her safe snacks when there is a celebration, if they are not sure about the foods. Even if they feel it is safe but there is no label, or in this case the label was ripped, having a safe snack bag as a back up will help her feel safer and still included in the celebration. I hope she is okay now and send her my best!


“My son has a life threatening allergy to dairy. We went to a trusted restaurant for my birthday. After being assured the bread was safe we allowed him to eat it. Bread in restaurants is always avoided. Within 15 minutes he was having a reaction. Not big but stomach cramps, minor hives. I spoke to our waiter to explain what was happening and that we may need to administer Epi’s and call 911. He brought our check. At the time we live in A North Shore Suburb of Chicago. The hospital was 5 minutes away so we raced to hospital. His reaction remained the same. Doctors gave him more antihistamine and watched him. An hour later they were releasing us. On our way out, I heard a wheeze when he was breathing. He was going into anaphylaxis full on. Epi and steroids were administered and we stayed a few more hours. He has had a bunch of reactions. This was the first one that was delayed.” – Tracie W. C.

To Tracie W.C. : Unfortunately, events like this can not be predicted. This is why we prepare ourselves by practicing using the epipens and educating ourselves on different scenarios. You can never be 100% prepared, but as long as you know what the signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction are, and you educated yourself on “safe” places to eat, you can prevent a reaction as much as possible. This being a restaurant that you frequented, it is shocking that it happened, however it is always a possibility when human error is at play. You did an excellent job at handling the situation, i must say! My advice to you is to avoid anything you think “may” have been contaminated by his allergen. Even if they say it is safe, if you don’t trust it, don’t eat it. Personally, I stick with the same foods for my son when we go to restaurants. It can never hurt to remind the staff every time you go there because staff changes and so does the menu. Good luck and I wish your son many years of happy restaurant experiences.


“This summer we went to an allergist who told us that my son’s skin tests scored lower than his initial diagnoses 3 years prior. This was our first time visiting this particular Dr. He also told us that since my son only broke out in hives with his first reaction that he probably wouldn’t have even prescribed us an epi-pen. He sent us home and had us do a food trial. Even though I saw red flags, we tried a food trial at home anyway. This Dr was very sure of himself. I was nervous. My son doesn’t even like peanut butter (thank God) so for the trial I made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. He took the tiniest “mouse bite” and we waited. Within minutes, he had severe abdominal pain, then threw up. His face was blood red! You could see blood under the surface of his skin (like a strawberry) all over his entire face. His throat started to close. He was crying and saying “I can feel my throat on my tongue!!” We kept talking to him calmly and walked out of the house, got in the car, and sped to the hospital. (It took us 3 minutes we live VERY close, thank God!) He was given epinephrine, steroids, and pepcid to help if there was any left in his stomach. He was on oral steroids for about a week after this incident. I can tell you that there is NOTHING more horrifying than the PLEADING look in his eyes. He was so scared and so were my husband and I. I will NEVER forget the look in his eyes. EVER. Needless to say we do NOT go to that allergist anymore. I am extremely happy with the one we have now. I don’t ever want to experience this again. I hope and pray every day that my son never does.” – Cherie K. T.

Cherie K. T. : That had to have been extremely scary and definitely a traumatizing experience. For that doctor to have you do a food allergy at home may have been the most “unprofessional” thing I have ever heard of. Most doctors recommend food challenges in the office, or if you want to do it on your own, most recommend it be done near a hospital or in the hospital lobby. You explained this in so much deatil that I can almost see the events, step by step, of what happened. It is always a heartbreak, to say the least, when we see our child suffer and when it is from something like this, it is so much worse. You handled the situation with great restraint; trying to remain calm for your child. My advice to you is to always trust your gut. Even if a doctor tells you otherwise. If your gut is telling you something is wrong, then something probably is. You know better about your child. Keep yourself prepared with an epipen at all times. If by chance an allergist says he doesn’t need one, request one anyway. If they refuse, I would go to another doctor. Remember, if there is an emergency and the epipen you have is expired or a jr (and your child now uses the full strength), it is best to use something rather than nothing at all. They do not advise to use expired ones however, in the event of an emergency and your child can not breathe, it is best to try. It can’t hurt. Good luck to you and your child in the future. I wll keep my fingers crossed for no more reactions!


“This wasn’t a first reaction but it was one of the scariest for me because we were nowhere familiar. We were coming home from a trip and had just stopped to use the restroom. When we got back into the car, we gave the kids (daughter 8years old, son 5 years old) some Laffy Taffy. Both my husband and I read the ingredients and didn’t see any of their allergens (daughter ana to peanuts and treenuts, son ana to egg, peanuts and treenuts). Within 1 minute of beginning to eat my son starts screaming that the roof of his mouth was burning and he insisted that there was egg in it. We assured him that we checked and there was no egg. Within 3o seconds he began projectile vomiting. We pulled over on the side of interstate 80, jumped out and threw his door open. His eyes and mouth were swollen and he had ginormous hives all over and started wheezing. I got out epi pen and gave it to him. My husband pulled up the nearest hospital on GPS (thank the lord for GPS!!!) and we sped there. I called 911 and told them to call the hospital and have them waiting out side for him. I soothed him all the way (it was less than a 10 minute drive but felt like hours). He continued throwing up but his breathing seemed better. Finally got to hospital and medical personal were waiting. Told them as we were pushed into room his history and when I gave him the epi pen. They started IV of steroid and began checking his vitals. Said his lungs sounded good and they would keep him for 4 hours. 1/2 hour into our stay, he started wheezing and got more swollen. The doctor was wavering on giving him the second epi pen. I said he is getting worse and they had 5 seconds to give him the epi or I would because I wasn’t going to watch my son die. Well, they did and thankfully he got better. We stayed at the hospital 6 hours and drove 4 more to get home. The next day I researched and found out that Laffy Taffy in the size we had gotten has eggs, but neither myself or my husband saw it listed. Because we threw it away (with the vomit) we couldn’t prove to the company that it was miss labeled. Very thankful it ended well.” – Julie B. W.

Julie B. W. : I am very thankful it ended well too! Sounds like you were very prepared and handled everything so well. Under the circumstances, it is hard to remain calm and know how to keep the child calm too. You did a great job! Situations like this happen all of the time but we hardly ever hear about them. It is true that some of the “mini” packaging or the “king size” packaging are produced differently, this is why we as parents need to try to keep ourselves up to date with changes in the factories. Unfortunately, we can never know for sure sometimes, no matter how much “research” we do. You did what any mother would have done had they been in your situation. Pushing the hospital staff to administer the second epipen is NOT something your should have done, however sometimes the parent has to be the doctor. This is why it is so important to understand your child’s reactions. My advice for you is to keep being a great mom! You handled the situation the way you should have and that is awesome! If by chance, your child has another reaction, not necessarily from a Laffy Taffy because if could be from another food, save the wrapper to show to the hospital staff and to have as prof of what he ingested. I recommend keeping a Ziploc baggy with his epipen so if you have to save a wrapper, you can put it in there and there isn’t a risk of him coming in contact with the wrapper. Scary situations like this, unfortunately teach us how to handle stressful situations. Good luck and to your children!



Reading about other parent’s situations can help you learn what to do and how to handle it, if you ever have to deal with your child going through an allergic reaction. Sometimes, when an allergic reaction happens at school, it can seem so much worse because you are not there to REALLY know what happened. This this why it is important to have preventative measures put in place. Even those cant completely stop an allergic reaction, however it can prevent it most of the time.

All of you mothers, handled the situation extremely well, under the circumstances. I applaud you all!


Have a question regarding Peanut, Tree Nut or Other food allergies in school? Want to suggest a topic for me to discuss? Follow Me on Facebook @ www.facebook.com/ptomom or Contact me @ pto_mom@aol.com and follow my Inspiredeats column here.

Get “Schooled” on Food Allergies With PTO Mom!

*All information on this page is not to be taken instead of medical advise.*



Recently I was introduced to a mom who launched a site called Corn Freedom, in an effort to help raise awareness to the dangers of a corn allergy, and spread the word on how powerful this allergy is, and (sadly) how prolific corn is in our everyday lives.  

Nicole has launched an effort to spread the word about corn allergies on both her website here and her Facebook page. She’s calling it the “Write in Campaign” which is meant to raise the awareness about the severity of corn allergies and the struggles parents endure to protect their corn-allergic children through a word of mouth campaign. Her hope is to submit these letters to Dr. Oz and have him choose to publicize this very real, and very dangerous issue.  And she needs our help!

If you or someone you know has a corn allergy, please help Nicole by contributing a letter to Corn Freedom so she can add it to the list of letters she already has for Dr. Oz. Hopefully we can help get Dr Oz to take this public, helping to expose the danger of corn allergies, and help to get proper labeling of corn ingredients to better protect our children, and adults, who suffer from corn allergies.

I was shocked by some of the symptoms of a corn allergy, and by how prevalent it is in our everyday lives. In fact, I was unaware that corn is used in cleaning supplies (which are also used by hospitals), in medicines, perfumes, detergents and more. Here are some excerpts from the letters on Nicole’s site so you can get a better understanding for what parents of corn allergic children endure.

Here’s a list from one of the letters on Corn Freedom of all the products this particular family has to avoid for their corn allergic child:

Toothpaste/ floss/ mouthwash
Toilet paper/ other paper products
Cleaning supplies for the home
Dryer sheets/ liquid detergent/ powder detergent
Medications/ Band-Aids
And of course FOOD

In Nicole’s words:

Our son responds to corn neurologically. This is very common and there are many children who are diagnosed with sensory issues or Autism who actually have food intolerances. Our son becomes combative, depressed, anxious, Autistic-like, dyslexic, hyper and has been diagnosed with ADHD but only some times (which is confusing to a parent)…. Our son is 11 years old now, we still fight doctors and have to educate where ever we go so our son can be properly cared for. He cannot go to public school due to the level of environmental corn contaminants in the building, for example; the cleaning products, perfumes, detergents, fabric softeners, air fresheners, hair spray, tempera paint, finger paint, glues, dry erase markers, colored chalk, the cafeteria…the list is extensive….


And here’s an excerpt from one of her supporters. It’s truly an epidemic that must have better labeling!

Because Trevor is hypersensitive to corn, we have to buy special soap, lotion, laundry detergent and we have to be careful when going out in public. If someone has perfume on or if there is a popcorn machine around, we have to move him away quickly. I have to be prepared just to go to Target as they have a popcorn machine in the store. So I just bite the bullet. He has reacted to our local library and the Phoenix zoo due to cleaners and food smells that contain corn and soy.He is starting kindergarten in 2012. We have decided to homeschool him.


So please take a moment to head over to Nicole’s site and submit your letter if you or someone you know suffers from a corn allergy. Let’s join together to help Nicole fight to spread the word about corn allergies and get her cause known!
Good luck Nicole – we’re fighting for you too!