Caring for Our Children (CFOC)

Chapter 4: Nutrition and Food Service

4.2 General Requirements

4.2.0 Care for Children with Food Allergies

Content in the STANDARD was modified on 11/9/2017.


When children with food allergies attend an early care and education facility, here is what should occur.
a.  Each child with a food allergy should have a care plan prepared for the facility by the child’s primary health care provider, to include
     1.  A written list of the food(s) to which the child is allergic and instructions for steps that need to be taken to avoid that food.
     2.  A detailed treatment plan to be implemented in the event of an allergic reaction, including the names, doses, and methods of administration of any medications that the child should receive in the event of a reaction. The plan should include specific symptoms that would indicate the need to administer one or more medications.

b.  Based on the child’s care plan, the child’s caregivers/teachers should receive training, demonstrate competence in, and implement measures for
     1.  Preventing exposure to the specific food(s) to which the child is allergic
     2.  Recognizing the symptoms of an allergic reaction
     3.  Treating allergic reactions

c.   Parents/guardians and staff should arrange for the facility to have the necessary medications, proper storage of such medications, and the equipment and training to manage the child’s food allergy while the child is at the early care and education facility.

d.  Caregivers/teachers should promptly and properly administer prescribed medications in the event of an allergic reaction according to the instructions in the care plan.

e.  The facility should notify parents/guardians immediately of any suspected allergic reactions, the ingestion of the problem food, or contact with the problem food, even if a reaction did not occur.

f.    The facility should recommend to the family that the child’s primary health care provider be notified if the child has required treatment by the facility for a food allergic reaction.

g.  The facility should contact the emergency medical services (EMS) system immediately if the child has any serious allergic reaction and/or whenever epinephrine (eg, EpiPen, EpiPen Jr) has been administered, even if the child appears to have recovered from the allergic reaction.

h.  Parents/guardians of all children in the child’s class should be advised to avoid any known allergens in class treats or special foods brought into the early care and education setting.

i.    Individual child’s food allergies should be posted prominently in the classroom where staff can view them and/or wherever food is served.

j.    The written child care plan, a mobile phone, and a list of the proper medications for appropriate treatment if the child develops an acute allergic reaction should be routinely carried on field trips or transport out of the early care and education setting.

For all children with a history of anaphylaxis (severe allergic reaction), or for those with peanut and/or tree nut allergy (whether or not they have had anaphylaxis), epinephrine should be readily available. This will usually be provided as a premeasured dose in an auto-injector, such as EpiPen or EpiPen Jr. Specific indications for administration of epinephrine should be provided in the detailed care plan. Within the context of state laws, appropriate personnel should be prepared to administer epinephrine when needed.

Food sharing between children must be prevented by careful supervision and repeated instruction to children about this issue. Exposure may also occur through contact between children or by contact with contaminated surfaces, such as a table on which the food allergen remains after eating. Some children may have an allergic reaction just from being in proximity to the offending food, without actually ingesting it. Such contact should be minimized by washing children’s hands and faces and all surfaces that were in contact with food. In addition, reactions may occur when a food is used as part of an art or craft project, such as the use of peanut butter to make a bird feeder or wheat to make modeling compound.

Food allergy is common, occurring in between 2% and 8% of infants and children (1). Allergic reactions to food can range from mild skin or gastrointestinal symptoms to severe, life-threatening reactions with respiratory and/or cardiovascular compromise. Hospitalizations from food allergy are being reported in increasing numbers, especially among children with asthma who have one or more food sensitivities (2). A major factor in death from anaphylaxis has been a delay in the administration of lifesaving emergency medication, particularly epinephrine (3). Intensive efforts to avoid exposure to the offending food(s) are, therefore, warranted. The maintenance of detailed care plans and the ability to implement such plans for the treatment of reactions are essential for all children with food allergies (4).
Successful food avoidance requires a cooperative effort that must include the parents/guardians, child, child’s primary health care provider, and early care and education staff. In some cases, especially for a child with multiple food allergies, parents/guardians may need to take responsibility for providing all the child’s food. In other cases, early care and education staff may be able to provide safe foods as long as they have been fully educated about effective food avoidance.
Effective food avoidance has several facets. Foods can be listed on an ingredient list under a variety of names; for example, milk could be listed as casein, caseinate, whey, and/or lactoglobulin.

Some children with a food allergy will have mild reactions and will only need to avoid the problem food(s). Others will need to have antihistamine or epinephrine available to be used in the event of a reaction.

For more information on food allergies, contact Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) at
Some early care and education/school settings require that all foods brought into the classroom are store-bought and in their original packaging so that a list of ingredients is included, to prevent exposure to allergens. However, packaged foods may mistakenly include allergen-type ingredients. Alerts and ingredient recalls can be found on the FARE Web site (5).
Center, Early Head Start, Head Start, Large Family Child Care Home, Small Family Child Care Home
RELATED STANDARDS Care Plan for Children with Special Health Care Needs Assessment and Planning of Nutrition for Individual Children Feeding Plans and Dietary Modifications
Appendix P: Situations that Require Medical Attention Right Away
  1. Bugden EA, Martinez AK, Greene BZ, Eig K. Safe at School and Ready to Learn: A Comprehensive Policy Guide for Protecting Students with Life-threatening Food Allergies. 2nd ed. Alexandria, VA: National School Boards Association; 2012. Accessed September 20, 2017
  2. Caffarelli C, Garrubba M, Greco C, Mastrorilli C, Povesi Dascola C. Asthma and food allergy in children: is there a connection or interaction? Front Pediatr. 2016;4:34
  3. Tsuang A, Demain H, Patrick K, Pistiner M, Wang J. Epinephrine use and training in schools for food-induced anaphylaxis among non-nursing staff. J Allergy Clin Immunol Pract. 2017;5(5):1418–1420.e3
  4. Wang J, Sicherer SH; American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Allergy and Immunology. Guidance on completing a written allergy and anaphylaxis emergency plan. Pediatrics. 2017;139(3):e20164005
  5. Food Allergy Research & Education. Allergy alerts. Accessed September 20, 2017
    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Healthy schools. Food allergies in schools. Reviewed May 9, 2017. Accessed September 20, 2017

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Voluntary Guidelines for Managing Food Allergies in Schools and Early Care and Education Programs. Washington, DC: US Department of Health and Human Services; 2013. Accessed September 20, 2017

Content in the STANDARD was modified on 11/9/2017.