Do you, or someone you know suffer from a nut allergy?

With the rise of food allergies today, it’s easy for people to become numb to the very real dangers associated with them. For most, the only safe options are avoidance and epinephrine shots, and sadly, there are several reported cases of deaths after epinephrine was administered. A very real, very scary reality for parents of allergy sufferers.

According to a 2010 study in the journal Pediatrics, 8% of children younger than 18 in the United States have at least one food allergy. Among those with food allergies, about 39% had a history of severe reaction, and 30% were allergic to multiple foods.

Peanut allergy is the most common food allergy,  followed by milk and shellfish. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 90% of allergic reactions come from just eight foods: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy and wheat.

Recently we were contacted by a health author about the risks of traveling for those who suffer from peanut allergies. It’s something we don’t personally deal with around here, but we have friends who’s kiddos are nut allergic. It’s something they have to remain ever-vigilant about, protecting their children from exposure to such a commonly used ingredient. I often think about them when I’m on a flight and the airline passes out nut snacks.

So what do you do if you travel and you suffer an allergy attack? Ella Moss and Bill Johnson have some tips for you to consider.  Ella Moss is a health and addiction writer who works for a number of consumer advice sites. She paired up with Bill Johnson, a finance writer and expert for a leading consumer advice portal, to produce a guide for travelers with nut allergies looking to travel safely, with adequate insurance cover. It’s often surprising to those who don’t suffer from an allergy how difficult some seemingly simple day to day situations can be. Hopefully this guide will bring you up to speed.

Suffering from an allergic reaction on holiday is horrible enough; but it’s even worse if your travel insurance won’t payout for treatment. Here’s how to make sure that doesn’t happen to you. Read more:

The article is published in the UK but definitely has relevance to us here in the US.

Please share your stories with us about how you stay safe during your travels!

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 @ or Contact me @ 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.*


Providing the proper accommodations for your child when they are at school can be quite frustrating. What you find to be completely reasonable, others (who do not have to go through the food allergy life) think is completely unreasonable. School staff tend to think a parent is overreacting most of the time; thinking we just want to put our child in a tiny little bubble and treat him like he is a porcelain doll. In reality, we are just trying to lower their chances of having a life changing allergic reaction.

Here are a few reasonable accommodations that school staff should NOT fight you on:

  • All school staff is to be trained to use the epi pen. (This includes cafeteria staff, teachers and office personnel)
  • Teachers will not use the allergen in classroom projects, behavior rewards or lesson plans.
  • *Student is permitted to carry epi pen. An additional epi pen will be kept in the main office.
  • **Student can sit with everyone else at lunch time, with cafeteria staff being informed of the allergy to avoid it going near student.
  • Notices will be sent home to classmates encouraging non-food celebrations (birthdays, holidays etc.) OR to inform them there is an allergic student and remind them of the foods that are NOT safe to bring in.

* If the student is allowed to self carry in the school district and if the parents feel comfortable with it.

** Ultimately up to the parents on the cafeteria conditions.

Here are a few negotiable accommodations that school staff and parents will need to find an agreement on:

  • allowing the child to have a safe snack bag in the classroom (most likely provided by parents)
  • notices sent home to the entire school notifying them of the allergy.
  • nut-free classroom
  • peanut-free zone at lunch time

You are the parent so you decide what is needed so your child can have a great educational experience and, most importantly, a safe experience at school.

If you have any questions about reasonable accommodations for your child, set up a meeting with the school’s principal and/or social worker. They can help you decide on what is absolutely needed. Remember to never let the school talk you out of an accommodation that you know your child needs.




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 @ or Contact me @ 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.*


I have received quite a bit of private messages regarding school activities and how to handle them when having food allergies. It’s normal for a parent to feel nervous, especially a parent of a food-allergic child. Will my child be safe? Will they know what to do if she has a reaction? Will they know what to avoid? These are just some of the questions that go through our minds on a daily basis.

When it comes to planning school events and activities, it make us even more nervous. Most of the time, food is a big part of school events. Every holiday there has to be a food related project or fundraiser. I know with my son’s school, Halloween is all about candy, Thanksgiving they have a “feast” at lunch time”, Christmas is about cookies, Valentines day is about candy, Easter is coloring eggs in class and of course candy; everything has to have food involved.

To ease the stress level, try to talk with the classroom teacher and explain your child’s allergies. If you don’t feel comfortable with your child doing “food projects”, ask if they can do non-food projects. It is best to research some non-food related projects off the internet to give the teacher some options when talking with him/her.

With St. Patrick’s Day fast approaching, here are some examples of non-food related school projects:

  • Teach an Irish step dance.
  • Decorate the room with shamrocks made from construction paper.
  • Plan a St. Patrick’s Day scavenger hunt that leads to a pot of gold filled with treasures,( pens, pencils, stickers and/or erasers).
  • Read about Irish history

For a pre-spring break activity:

  • Plan a nature walk to see plants re-awakening in
    the spring weather.
  • Decorate plastic eggs with paints and stickers.
  • Decorate flowerpots for parents and plant a flower or seed.
  • Have parents donate plants that children can plant in the school yard or at a housing project, senior center, or other community site.

Another option is to ask to volunteer in the classroom on special days where you know food will be an issue. Days such as the last day of school before spring break. That day is usually all about Easter related activities. Egg painting, candy and Easter egg hunts are just some of the activities that you typically see. If you are there, you can monitor anything your child is exposed to, to make sure it is safe.

Good communication is the key to a successful allergy-free school year. If you communication on a regular basis with the ones who will be around your child the most, they can prepare themselves properly. Also, when communication is good, they all can feel comfortable with calling you anytime of the school day, if there is a question or concern.

School is about learning. Make sure you teach your child to be safe and understand what is safe and what isn’t. When in doubt, throw it out!



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 @ or Contact me @ 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.*


Get “Schooled” on Food Allergies with PTO Mom.

If you have a child with food allergies, you have heard of a “504 Plan” but don’t really know much about it. Some school districts have even said they don’t do 504 plans in their district. Abiding by Section 504, which is a federal law, is not optional.

I will answer some questions that some readers have asked, referring to Section 504 in public schools.

Q: How do you get a 504? What exactly is a 504 plan? -Kelly (unknown last name)

A: A “504 Plan” is a type of written agreement between you and the school providing information on the accommodations you feel your child needs so that he/she can have the same opportunities at school as everyone else. Accommodations can include: nut-free classroom, nut-free lunch table, non-food celebrations…etc. A student is considered eligible for a “504 Plan” if they have an impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. According to Americans with Disabilities Act Amendment Act, if the impairment is episodic (the food allergic child is not always reacting just as an epileptic is not always seizing), it doesn’t dismiss eligibility if the impairment substantially limits one or more major life activities when active. With a food allergic child, during anaphylaxis, the major life activity that would be limited would be breathing and eating.

To get a 504 plan established for your child, first you should contact the school’s principal, with a written request. You can find sample letters online by google searching: sample letter requesting accommodations under section 504 or sample letter for 504 plan for food allergies. In the letter I would request that if your child is denied for some reason, you would like a written denial with reason why sent to you. This way you have it in writing, just in case you need to fight it. Personally, I would physically hand it to a staff member at the school’s office so you know the school received it. I would also, if you feel it is necessary, to email a copy to the principal too. The standard time to wait to receive a call back is 5 business days, so if you have not received a call back to schedule a meeting within 5 business days, call the school to speak to the principal. I would also send in the same letter to the school nurse and even the school councilor/social worker.

Q: What sort of accommodations should I request for at my child’s 504 meeting? – Hanna J.

A: You can ask for any accommodations that you feel are reasonable requests to help manage your child’s food allergies in school. Accommodations that you can include are:

  • nut-free classroom
  • nut-free lunch table
  • non-food celebrations
  • allowing a “safe snack” bag in the classroom
  • allowing your child to carry an Epipen (or Auvi-Q) in school and on field trips
  • request to be the first parent called to volunteer for classroom parties and/or field trips
  • table cleaned after each lunch… etc.
  • request all staff and drivers are Epipen (and/or Auvi-Q) trained

Q: My son, who is 6, is allergic to peanuts (not tree nuts). His school is peanut free. Should I get a written management plan for him even though the school is peanut free? – Samantha W.

A: Absolutely! Even though the school is peanut free, you still may need some accommodations such as:

  • self carrying an Epipen or Auvi-Q
  • request all staff and drivers are Epipen (and/or Auvi-Q) trained
  • request to be the first parent called to volunteer for field trips

A “504 Plan” doesn’t necessarily need to be your first choice for a written management plan. If the school is willing to work with you, a simple written management plan would work for you. The difference is, a “504 Plan” is a legal document that, once agreed upon, makes everyone held accountable for their part. A written management plan, is more like an agreement between you and the school. If it isn’t signed, they can say it never existed, because there is not paperwork to prove their accountability. “504 Plans” are better in that if the school staff changes, this legal binding document doesn’t.

It is ultimately up to the parents to decide what is best for managing their child’s food allergies in school.


You can understand more about managing food allergies in a school setting by taking a look at this guide:

Safe At School And Ready To Learn: A Comprehensive Policy Guide for Protecting Students with Life-threatening Food Allergies.

Arizona Food Allergy Alliance, get a 504 plan

Food Allergies in School: What School Staff Need To Know


Resources if you have problems regarding your child’s food allergy management at school:

1-800-514-0301 is the ADA voice information line.

1-800-421-3481 is the U.S. Dept of Edu. Civil Rights Office (this is who you need to talk to about implementing and enforcing a 504 plan)



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 @ or Contact me @ 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.*



This is a guest post from Rebecca Evans, who shares her own perspectives of living with food allergies. She hopes to help you better understand this journey you or your loved ones are on, and help and inspire you along the way.

Living with food allergies is a unique challenge that affects not only the individual dealing with said allergies, but also significant others. More than one might realize, actually.

When I first started dating my now ex-husband, I quickly learned about his allergy on the third date, as he asked the waitress what kind of oil the French fries were cooked in.

“I guess I should come clean now,” he admitted, as though he had done something wrong. “I have a peanut allergy.”

A few months later we moved in together, and I was beginning to understand what it meant live with a food allergy. I carried an epi-pen in my purse, just in case something happened while we were out. Any food that we purchased had to be checked and the ingredients list read thoroughly. If it said “Made in a facility that also handles peanuts and/or tree nuts”, back to the shelf it went. While consuming any kind of nut product would make him sick, peanuts could kill him, and he had to take extra precautions when we went out to eat.

One day I purchased a box dinner and, not seeing the special marking on the bottom that usually denotes “May contain tree nuts”, I assumed everything was fine. However, it was only after I got home and re-read the list that I saw a nut ingredient that had hid itself in the smaller print. Thankful I caught the problem before it started, I threw the food away and went to prepare something else for dinner. After that, reading each and every little item on the list of ingredients became a way of life for me.

Another time, I made the mistake of kissing my ex after eating a Reese’s peanut butter cup, thereby causing a breakout on his lips. He had to clean his face and I learned to brush my teeth and wash my hands after consuming any nut products. I also started to make do without peanut butter in the house, and forgo any cereals that had nuts, so I wouldn’t risk contaminating the dishes even after cleaning them.

I won’t lie, it wasn’t an easy adjustment to make for someone who had grown up eating PB&J her whole childhood. But not wanting to unintentionally poison the man I loved (at the time), I willingly gave it up.

In 2007, I decided to become vegetarian (after some protest from my ex), and took to shopping in the specialty frozen food aisle of my local grocery store. Following along behind me, my ex noticed that among the veggie burgers and vegan TV dinners, there were snack items called Kim and Scott’s, a brand made just for people with food allergies that boasted of being nut free and healthy for the whole family. Finally, a great compromise! He could have the food he wanted and buy it in confidence knowing it wouldn’t put him in the hospital later that night.

“And to think you gave me all that grief about changing my diet,” I teased him.

Today, those with nut allergies have it easier than ever. Brands like Kim and Scotts and Cherrybrook Farm build their products around those with allergies. Sunflower butter is a popular alternative to peanut butter. And in the majority of restaurants, peanut oil is a thing of the past.

For those of you dating a person with food allergies, here are a few things to keep in mind:

-Be mindful of what they cannot eat, no exceptions! That means if they cannot eat gluten, don’t try and make them.

-Don’t make them feel bad or guilty for having an allergy. It’s not something they can control.

-Check out specialty restaurants, including vegetarian and vegan restaurants, as these are usually sensitive to people with food allergies.

-Invest in a good food allergy cookbook and learn to make a few “alternative dishes” your partner can enjoy.

-If you do buy food at the store, read all the ingredients. Even if you think you don’t have to, do so anyway. Better safe than sorry.

Although nut allergies are no longer a part of my life since we are not together, thanks to my ex I am more conscious of what individuals with allergies deal with, and how their lives can be improved with better options, more variety, and public knowledge on food allergies-something many people are still unaware of. I happily look forward to the day when everyone can enjoy their own version of a Reese’s non-peanut butter cup!


Rebecca EvansRebecca Evans is a freelance writer, and knows firsthand what it’s like to have a partner with food allergies. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter and her blog, Living the Hi Life.

Welcome to the NEW food allergy advice column, Get “Schooled” on Food Allergies with PTO Mom.

Planning school events are part of being in the PTO but when food is involved, it can make you, well, a little nuts! Common misconceptions with food allergies, how to communicate with teachers and other parents about your child’s allergies, and solutions to common problems involving food allergies in school are just some of the questions I can help you find the answers to.

I myself, am a mother of two; one of which has severe nut allergies. Most of the problems you may have, I either am going through or have went through at some point with my child’s school. I am here to help, educate and inform.

So let’s begin with, What happens when someone has a food allergy?

The body’s normal immune system is designed to fight infections. However, when someone is allergic to a type of food, it’s immune system goes into overdrive due to a reaction from the proteins of the particular food. When an allergic person ingests the allergen, the body thinks the proteins are harmful which in turn causes the immune system to fight back, as if it was an infection.

An allergic reaction can cause someone to have: wheezing/trouble breathing, coughing, throat tightening, nausea/vomiting, diarrhea, itchy/swollen eyes and/or hives.

When/if you have an allergic reaction in school, it is extremely important for you to have an epipen (or epipen jr) in the building. If you feel comfortable with carrying one and know how to use it, I advise you to carry one. Most school district will allow a student to self carry (and self administer) if the parent agrees, has a note signed by a doctor saying you should carry at all times and if the student knows how to use it themselves.

To find out if your school district allows self carrying and/or self administration of epipen (epipen jr), go to you school district’s board of education superintendent or simply ask the school’s nurse or principal.

Having nut allergies doesn’t have to slow you down. You can still live a fulfilling life.  If we can thrive, so can you!


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 @ or Contact me @ and follow my Inspiredeats column here

Get “Schooled” on Food Allergies With PTO Mom!