15 Back-to-School Tips for Parents of Allergy Sensitive Kids

August 19th, 2014

back to school allergy tips for parentsIt’s back-to-school time again, and if you’re the parent of a child who suffers with allergies or asthma, it can also be a stressful time.

Food allergies affect approximately one in 13 kids. That means that in the average classroom, there are about two students who are coping with some form of food allergy. Of these students, nearly 40 percent have a history of severe allergic reactions or anaphylaxis. Parents, teachers, and school officials need to be aware of the potentially life-threatening situations that can arise and be ready to handle them should they strike.

Here, our board-certified allergists offer advice and resources for allergy- and asthma-sensitive kids and back-to-school preparedness.


  1. Request a meeting with the school nurse. Often, the nurse is the most experienced and best-trained staff member when it comes to medical emergencies. One of the first things you should do is meet with the nurse to explain your child’s allergy or asthma symptoms.
  2. Share your emergency care plan. In conjunction with the nurse and teachers, share the emergency care plan you use for your family. Make sure all staff who works with your child is aware of this plan.
  3. Share pictures of typical reactions your child has. If your child’s teacher has not cared for kids with severe allergies, it could be helpful to share pictures of what typical allergic reactions look like.
  4. Speak with school lunch staff. Most schools have electronic systems for tracking lunch purchases. Ask that a notification or alert be included on your child’s profile. This notifies lunch personnel of your child’s allergy status and helps ensure he or she isn’t accidentally served foods he or she reacts to.
  5. Keep an epinephrine injector at school. For parents in Florida, schools can keep non-student specific epinephrine pens stocked for children who suffer from anaphylactic reactions at school. However, every child with a severe food or insect venom allergy (i.e. to bees, wasps, fire ant, etc…) should have their own prescription for an auto injector that can be kept on hand at school. We recommend EpiPen, Auvi-Q or Adrenaclick (generic). You can also check out our patient education page for info on proper use of EpiPens.
  6. Use safety tattoos for notifying staff. You probably don’t need these for long-term use, but for the beginning of the school year (or other times when your child will be with new care providers), these safety tattoos can be extremely helpful in making sure people are aware of your child’s allergies.
  7. Have your child wear a medical alert bracelet.  Especially for children at risk for severe allergic reactions, this is a better option than the safety tattoos. They are also helpful for EMTs who might respond in case of a medical emergency. Also, for your fashion-conscious kids, medical bracelets can be made like stylish jewelry.
  8. Create a “safe food box.”  It’s common for classrooms to have snacks that may cause issues for your child. Create a safe food box that can be kept with the teacher to substitute for your child with severe allergic reactions.
  9. Ask for a list of birthday party dates. If your child’s classroom celebrates birthdays, it is possible to ask for celebration dates in advance and whether there will be dangerous treats available. Nowadays most treats have allergen-free alternatives that can be substituted for your child to ensure they don’t feel left out.
  10. If you have the flexibility, be a “classroom parent.” This would give you a little more advance notice on events going on in the school and classroom. Also, volunteering in the PTA and on field trips can help you monitor your child (and other children that migh have allergies).
  11. Ask school administrators to limit or not use your child’s classroom for after school activities. Sometimes schools have to use rooms for after-school activities or to support outside groups. Ask that your child’s room not be used for these activities. While there is no guarantee the administration can honor your request, it could help to limit allergens brought into your child’s classroom.
  12. Find out your school’s procedures for limiting allergens on buses and transportation vehicles. Determine if the policies and procedures are appropriate for your child. In some instances, you might be best served by transporting your child to and from school yourself. Most districts have a “no food” policy on their buses unless medically necessary (i.e., a diabetic child with low blood sugar). Some policies might include having an adult on the bus who is trained in administering epinephrine or ensuring special seating arrangements.
  13. Request advance notice of all field trips. Your child’s allergies needn’t prevent him or her from attending educational and fun field trips. Having advance notice gives you a chance to prepare and address any allergy concerns.
  14. Ask to speak with the kids in your child’s class. Unfortunately, bullying occurs for all sorts of things, and kids with allergies aren’t immune to bullies. Ask the teacher if you can address your child’s class to help them understand what allergies are and what happens to your child if he or she has a reaction. This won’t prevent all bullying, but it’s a good way to address issues ahead of time. If speaking to the class isn’t possible, allow the teacher to address the class about your child’s allergies (without giving too much personal information). For younger classes, a great little book to share is Binky Goes Nuts — check with your child’s school or local public library to see if it’s available.
  15. Work with your child on how to self manage his or her allergies. Older kids need to learn how to manage their allergies and advocate for themselves. When you feel it’s age appropriate, make sure your child knows to carry their medicine at all times and how to self-administer epinephrine if appropriate.

The good news for parents is that schools are becoming more aware of kids with severe food allergies and the actions to take to keep them safe. But it’s still important for you to be your child’s number-one advocate. Follow these tips to make sure you, your child and his or her school are ready for the coming school year!

If you suspect your child has allergies or asthma and would like to have him or her evaluated, contact us to schedule an appointment with one of our board-certified allergy and asthma specialists. We have four convenient allergy clinics in Jacksonville.

photo courtesy US Dept of Education

Have Tree Nut Food Allergy? Beware of “Pink Peppercorns”

August 8th, 2014

Pink Peppercorns. Photo from Target.com

If you or a loved one has a tree nut food  allergy, please be sure to read the following blog post by a mom who found out the hard way that pink peppercorns in gourmet  pepper medleys are actually related to tree nuts.  http://christinascucina.com/2014/02/hidden-allergens-pink-peppercorns-tree.html

We have verified the information in her blog and indeed pink peppercorns are NOT true peppercorns.  The scientific name is S. terebinthifolius and these berries belong to the family Anacardiaceae, which include plants in the genus Anacardium (cashew nut) and Pistacia (pistachio). There is potential for cross-reactivity among different members of the Anacardiaceae family.

A medical case report about this very topic was published in the World Allergy Journal here.

Jacksonville Allergy Pollen Count 8/8/14

August 8th, 2014


ragweed ufl

Common Ragweed. Photo courtesy of Univ. of Florida

Weed Pollen: HIGH

Source: www.weather. com






Pregnant Mother Dies from Allergic Reaction to Wasp

August 5th, 2014


Another tragic death from anaphylaxis. Immediate epinephrine administration offers the best chance for surviving life threatening allergic reactions. Every minute counts, which is why it is so important to carry the epinephrine injector with you at all times if you have a severe allergy to insect venom or foods.



Information on Florida’s New Epinephrine Injector Law

July 28th, 2014
Board Certified Allergy Specialist Dr. DeMarco

As past president of Florida Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Assn, Dr. DeMarco helped advocate for epipen laws to help severe allergy sufferers.

The prevalence of food allergies and severe allergic reactions has skyrocketed over the last several years. The incidence of people, primarily children, having food allergies has increased by 18 percent in the decade between 1997 and 2007, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Other researchers have estimated that nearly 15 million Americans have a food allergy, with potentially deadly reactions affecting 1 in 13 children. That’s equal to about two children per every classroom!

With this significant increase in food allergies, there is an increasing need for people to have access to emergency supplies, such as an epinephrine auto injector (i.e. EpiPen® or AuviQ). These are important emergency treatment devices that can prevent anaphylactic shock.

New Florida Epinephrine Auto-Injector Law Goes Into Effect

Recently, a new law has gone into effect here in Florida to help increase the availability of epinephrine auto-injectors when Governor Scott signed the Emergency Allergy Treatment Act (HB 1131) into law. This new law will allow restaurants, theme parks, youth camps and sports leagues, and other businesses to have supplies of epinephrine auto-injectors. State Senator Aaron Bean of Jacksonville and State Representative Matt Hudson of Naples were the sponsors of this important legislation.

This new legislation not only offers protections for people who suffer from life-threatening allergies, but it also provides civil liability protections for health care providers, pharmacists and others who maintain and administer this emergency treatment. To be most effective, epinephrine must be administered early on during a severe allergic reaction – whether the trigger is a food, insect, or other allergen.

The greatest danger of not having immediate access to lifesaving epinephrine is that anaphylaxis can come on and progress very quickly. Every minute counts when it comes to administering epinephrine. Symptoms may initially be mild such as itching or rash but can then rapidly progress to throat closing, difficulty breath, shock or even death. These reactions are most common in response to peanuts and tree nuts, fish or shellfish but may happen upon exposure to other substances. It is unpredictable when these allergic reactions will occur. The epinephrine injector immediately delivers the medication into the muscle of the thigh, which is then rapidly taken up in the bloodstream to stop an allergic reaction.

Too often, especially among children and adolescents, victims don’t even realize they possess a severe allergy and are therefore not prepared to act when the allergic reaction suddenly begins. Once an anaphylactic reaction starts, immediate action is vital to the victim’s health. Taking the time to call 911 before administering an epinephrine dose could be a dangerous, even fatal decision. The Emergency Allergy Treatment Act goes a long way towards combating the issue of delayed epinephrine administration and will allow businesses to stock these devices for immediate use in life-threatening allergic situations, without concern for potential liability or lawsuits. In short, Public places will be better prepared to act if someone has a severe allergic reaction.

At our allergy and asthma clinic, we see routinely talk with parents and patients who grapple with their severe allergies and fears of unpredictable anaphylaxis. We commend this new Florida law that will bring added comfort to those with food allergies and their family members. All of us at the Allergy & Asthma Specialists of North Florida would like to extend our gratitude to the Florida Legislature, especially the bill’s sponsors, Sen. Bean and Rep. Hudson, for their work with this bill. And of course, we would like to thank Gov. Scott for signing this important and life saving measure into Florida law.

Jacksonville Allergy Pollen & Mold Forecast 7-22-14

July 22nd, 2014

Trees: None
Grass: LOW
Weeds: LOW
Molds: HIGH

Source: www.weather. com

Jacksonville Allergy Pollen & Mold Forecast 7-17-14

July 17th, 2014

Trees: None
Grass: LOW
Weeds: LOW
Molds: HIGH

Source: www.weather. com

Dandelion Globe With Seeds

Have an allergy to insect venom—Bees, wasps, hornets or fire ant?

July 16th, 2014

IF you or a loved one have an allergy to insect stings be sure to join Allergy & Asthma Network on July 24th at 7pm Eastern time as they host a free 1-hour webinar on Allergic Reactions to Insect Stings with Dr. David Lang (nationally renowned allergist). To register, visit: http://bit.ly/1jyuVQN.

Bee and flower UFL

An unusual cause of nickle allergy

July 15th, 2014

From cell phones to sunglasses, we’ve seen all sorts of causes for nickle allergy rash. Here’s a newly recognized trigger for nickle dermatitis.


Jacksonville Allergy Pollen and Mold Forecast 7-11-14

July 11th, 2014

Trees: None
Grass: LOW
Weeds: LOW
Molds: HIGH

Source: www.weather. com