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Food Allergies and Childcare - The Surprising Scary Truth

Over 60 percent of allergic reactions to food take place in preschools and daycare facilities. This scary statistic is a serious reminder that the child care that we select is wildly important.


Chalkboard with "allergy" written on it surrounded by common food allergy items.

In the United States, every state’s childcare licensing department has rules and regulations dictating what daycares and preschools have to do when it comes to food allergies. Many states require a food allergy written plan from the child’s doctor, including foods to avoid and how to respond if the child ingests the allergen or displays symptoms. However, it is important to know that not all states require staff to be trained on preventing, recognizing, and treating allergic reactions, including the administration of epinephrine (an Epipen).


Here are a few more frightening facts about childcare and food allergies:

  • Only 28 states require staff training for the prevention, recognition, and treatment of allergic reactions to food in their childcare licensing regulations.

  • While 33 states allow childcare facilities to stock undesignated epinephrine auto-injectors, only 7 states require staff to be trained in the administration of epinephrine.

  • Only 7 states require emergency services to be contacted after epinephrine has been administered.

  • Only 14 states and territories require a parent or guardian to be notified of a suspected allergic reaction.


Since every state is different, at the very least, you want to make sure that your childcare center is complying with:

  • Your state’s Child Care Licensing - use this link to find information

  • The American Disabilities Act - food allergies are usually considered disabilities under the ADA. Under the ADA, students who have food allergies are considered to have a disability that restricts their diet

  • Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 - a 504 plan is a legally binding care plan between you and your child’s school. It addresses how the school will accommodate your child’s food allergies. Under this law, schools that get federal funding cannot exclude or discriminate against students who have disabilities


It’s critical that your childcare center has policies and procedures to support the needs of each individual child safely. This requires daycares and preschools to have solid systems, including communication with you and your child’s medical provider (as needed), and, opportunities for ongoing training and professional development on signs and symptoms and responding to food allergies for all staff.


Send us your specific questions about food allergies and childcare, we are here to tackle them all.


All data cited can be referenced here.


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