Assignment: Education – Allergies in School

How the La Crosse School District Works with Kids Who Have Food Allergies

LA CROSSE, Wis. — Lunch time is a great time for students to take a break from their school day. But for some students it may not always be relaxing.

“That lunch room is the most dangerous place,” said Dr. Vijay Sabnis, Allergy Associates physician.

And danger can sometimes be lurking in unknown places for kids like Josh Barton who has a peanut allergy.

“He happened to have a little bit of peanut butter that was on a cracker,” said Jamie Barton, Josh’s mother. “(He) Just happened to kind of have a little taste, and maybe about 5-10 minutes later he broke out in some hives around his face.”

Josh was just two years old when he had his first reaction to peanuts. His mom quickly had him tested for allergies and a peanut allergy was confirmed.

“He’s at a point where he can be next to someone,” said Jamie. “He just has to be really careful about eating it or touching it and then touching his face or skin. He could set off a reaction that way.”


So, to ensure that her son stays safe while at school, Jamie is in constant communication with the La Crosse School District and the school nurse at Northwoods Elementary.

“Managing food allergies in our schools takes a team effort,” said Melissa Kujak, La Crosse School District school nurse. “We work with our parents. We work with our teachers, our kitchen staff and local physicians to keep our kids safe in schools.”

At the beginning of each school year, parents fill out an annual health update on their children. The school nurse will then contact parents and set up individualized health care plans in case of an emergency. The nurses also reach out to the school chefs.

“The school nurses will run health conditions confidential health condition reports with all the students that we are aware of with food allergies, or any type of allergy, and we alert the kitchen staff to those,” said Kujak. “So, they’re made fully well aware of that when the kids are coming through the line. They can see with their picture what is noted with their health condition.”

And for Josh, he is also of an age where he’s working as his own advocate.

“I always ask before I eat anything that I think has peanuts in it,” said Josh Barton.

“Sometimes you think what’s a kid’s life without peanut butter and jelly,” said Jamie. “But at the same time, there is so many other options out there.”

And while Josh continues to manage his allergy, his family is thankful he’s not at the other end of the reaction spectrum.

“Anaphylactic reaction is an extreme form of allergic reaction where there is a massive immediate histamine release within seconds and minutes of consumption and that threatens the life of the child,” said Dr. Sabnis.

This is why schools are taking allergies so seriously.