Imagine this: You're nine years old again, and it's Halloween. You just applied your make-up and put on your Dracula costume, or your ballerina outfit, or -- if you're already the subversive youngster -- a combination of the two. Your plan is to go door to door around the neighborhood with your friends, taking as many delicious sugary sweets home in your pillow case as you can.
But when your group gets to the first house, something strange happens...
The owner opens the door, greets you little bunch of "ghouls and goblins," and begins portioning out the candy. A Twix to Nancy, a Snickers bar to Joe, a bunch of M&M's to Harris. But when they get to you, they hand out a piece of chalk. That's weird, you think, but a gift's a gift, so you say "thanks" and move to the next house. And there, again, you're greeted with the same oddness: Candy for everyone else, not for you.
That's what it's like being a kid with a food allergy.
You're a bit of an outcast. Occasionally, you get picked on. There's a sense of removal or withdrawal that comes whenever food is brought into the equation. Instead of eating with the same reckless abandon that your other classmates exhibit during lunch, you have to take extra precautions every time you put something in your mouth. And that kind of thing hits especially hard during Halloween.
It's great timing, then, that the the CDC chose today to make their first official declaration about how schools should handle food allergies. A summarized and bullet-pointed list of what they're telling America's schools to do:
--Identify children with food allergies.
--Have a plan to prevent exposures and manage any reactions.
--Train teachers or others how to use medicines like epinephrine injectors, or have medical staff to do the job.
--Plan parties or field trips free of foods that might cause a reaction; and designate someone to carry epinephrine.
--Make sure classroom activities are inclusive.
That last one is particularly eye-opening. As the previously-linked SF Gate article uses as an example, it means suggesting to teachers that they forgo objects like peanut M&M's during instructional activities about counting and using something ... less allergic. It's small considerations like this that hint at the outsider status kids with food allergies live with.
But perhaps the scariest part of the news is that, soon enough, kids with food allergies may one day actually not be statistical outsiders:
A 2012 report from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases noted that recent studies have found that almost 1 in 20 young children under the age of 5 years and almost 1 in 25 adults are allergic to at least one food. Other studies indicate that food allergies, especially to peanuts, are on the rise.
No matter what side of the debate you stand on regarding how much government intrusion in our lives is worthwhile, this kind of action should be universally applauded. It shows what the feds do right: Take a huge problem that doesn't care one bit about the imaginary lines we've drawn onto our maps to act as state borders, and offer up a solution.
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