Child Nut Allergies: 3 Legal Tips for Parents

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By Daniel Taylor, Esq. on October 22, 2014 9:18 AM

Today is National Nut Day, a day dedicated to celebrating delicious, nutritious nuts. But for parents of children with severe nut allergies, nuts may not be something to celebrate so much as something to fear.

Nut allergies have been on the rise. According to a study published last year in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, the percentage of children suffering from peanut allergies in the United States more than tripled from 1997 to 2010, reports CBS News. In some cases, children with nut allergies who are exposed to even trace amounts of nuts can suffer fatal allergic reactions

What can parents of a school-aged child with a nut allergy do to help keep their child safe? Here are three legal tips to keep in mind:

  1. Notify your child's school about your child's allergy and medication. Although schools are becoming increasingly aware of potential problems involving nut allergies, providing school staff with specific information about your child's allergies and any medications that may be necessary is essential. This puts the school on notice and allows the school to take the necessary precautions during school activities, such as educating other students and their parents regarding the dangers of sharing food that may contain nuts.
  2. Know your school's food allergy management policy. In addition to educating the school's staff about your child's allergies, educate yourself about the school's allergy management policy; they may be similar to these voluntary guidelines published by the Centers for Disease Control. If your child's school doesn't have a clear allergy management policy, consider providing an emergency care plan on your own; a nonprofit group called Food Allergy Research & Education provides this sample form for parents.
  3. Provide your child with an EpiPen. Autoinjectors of the drug epinephrine, known as EpiPens, can save the life of a child or other individual suffering from a severe allergic reaction. Children may carry their own EpiPens in case of emergency, but increasingly, schools are keeping EpiPens on hand as well. Laws in many states now require schools to have EpiPens available for emergency use, according to Parents magazine. On the federal level, last year's School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act encourages states through funding preferences to maintain emergency supplies of epinephrine at schools, train school personnel on the use of EpiPens, and develop plans for ensuring trained personnel are available to administer the drug to a child suffering an allergic reaction.

Finally, remember that in the unfortunate event your child suffers an allergic reaction while at school or during a school event, the school may be held liable if staff members fail to act reasonably in allowing the injury to occur.

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