CT mom, experts fear mask requirements in school could make it difficult see allergic reactions to food

Connecticut Families

CONNECTICUT (WTNH) — Returning to the classroom during the pandemic is proving to be stressful for all involved, especially those with food allergies.

Kari Panuccio’s son, Nick, has serious food allergies. He can’t eat egg, beef, lamb and shellfish.

As the 11-year-old heads to middle school, Panuccio’s worried about the plan for kids to eat lunch in the classroom.

“Because he’s allergic to some things that are very common, it will be hard for other parents to send in snacks and food and lunch,” she said.

“It’s just going to require a lot of management and individualized plans to address it,” explained Gina Mennett Lee, a food allergy consultant.

But, she said the concerns don’t stop there.

“I feel like they’ll be using hand sanitizer more often and it’s not effective at removing allergens,” she said. “When speaking about masks, that’s covering up a big portion of the child’s face, so that’s going to make it more difficult for teachers and other adults to pick up on an allergic reaction.”

She said they could miss signs like facial swelling, hives or blue lips.

National organizations, like FAACT, have written to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, asking for more specific guidelines for food allergy issues.

“For parents, the helpful tip would be to make sure you’re talking to your child about the fact that they need to speak up if they’re not feeling well and that’s even more important under these circumstances,” Mennett Lee said.

She also suggests teachers watch a free, 15-minute anaphylaxis course, which is available online.

“This is the first time schools are going through this, so you really have to work together to figure out a way to address concerns and make sure it’s a safe place for your child to be,” she said.”

Nick told News 8 that he has mixed feelings about returning to school.

“I want everyone to stay safe and not get sick,” he said.

But his twin sister will be in the same classroom, watching out for him, and his mom vows to work with staff to come up with good solutions.

“It’s definitely a challenge going into this school year,” Panuccio said.

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