Peanuts/Peanut Butter Image: Volosina/Shutterstock.com


When it comes to giving rewards or treats for good behavior, Stephanie Felder, a mother of two children, knows that if it contains an ingredient such as milk or nuts, her children won’t be able to eat them. If eaten, their immune system will develop an allergic reaction.  Symptoms of the reaction can be mild or severe ranging from rashes on the skin to attacks to their respiratory track or cardiovascular system.

As high school teacher, Felder said that it’s rare that she gives out treats to her students. But as a mother of two children, ages 4 and 5, she wants their teachers to be sensitive to foods that can trigger an allergic reaction.

“I’m sensitive to the need for non-food treats especially at school birthday parties,” said Felder.  “Some great non-food treats that my children like are toy dreidels, stickers, pencils and erasers.”


An Increase in food allergies

Studies show that food allergies have increased about 50 percent from 1997 to 2011, and now affect up to 2 ½ million children. Six foods account for about 90 percent of all allergic reactions to foods in children: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat and soy. Studies also show that most children will outgrow their food allergies. However, peanut and tree nut allergy are considered life-long.


How to Manage Food allergies

To help schools and early child care and education programs address the needs of the growing number of children with food allergies, The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention’s (CDC) published “Voluntary Guidelines for Managing Food Allergies in Schools and Early Care and Education Programs.” The guidelines recommend avoiding the use of known allergies in classroom activities, or cooking and advise using non-food items for rewards or incentives to help create and maintain a healthy, safe and inclusive environment for students.


Tips for nonfood rewards of treats

Instead of giving out pizza or candy, here are some suggestions for non-food rewards or treats:

  • Stickers
  • Pencils
  • Erasers
  • Jump rope
  • Playing cards
  • Hair accessories or sunglasses
  • Friendship bracelets
  • Mini notepads
  • Bookmarks
  • Glow sticks, glow bracelets
  • Activity of coloring books
  • Praise on school announcements

When you give a reward or non-food treats to children with a food allergy, you’re motivating them as well as creating a healthy environment.

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