Twenty years ago, people gave little thought to kids bringing in treats to share with their class or swapping lunches in the cafeteria. But, with the shocking rise in food allergies, even seemingly harmless food exchanges can be deadly.

According to the U.S . Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, food allergies in kids increased 18 percent from 1997 to 2007. As many as eight percent of children under 18 have some type of food allergy, the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network reports. Chances are, you have a student in your class this year with some type of food allergy.

Sadly, a young life was lost last week as the result of a food allergy reaction at school. Ammaria Johnson, a  7-year-old first grader in Virginia, died of cardiac arrest and anaphylaxis after eating a peanut shared by a classmate. Neither Johnson, nor the school, had the allergy treatment drug epinephrine on hand. Most states do not require schools to stock epinephrine.

In November 2011, legislators presented the School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act to the Senate. The act encourages all states to require schools to keep an emergency stock of epinephrine. According to a recent CNN article, it’s estimated that up to 25 percent allergic reactions that occur in school involve children not known to have had an allergy before.

Eight foods make up almost all food allergies. They are:

  • Peanuts
  • Tree nuts
  • Fish
  • Shellfish
  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Wheat
  • Soy

Keep an eye out for the following food allergy symptoms,  as listed by the Mayo Clinic:

  • Tingling or itching in the mouth
  • Hives, itching or eczema
  • Swelling of the lips, face, tongue and throat, or other parts of the body
  • Wheezing, nasal congestion or trouble breathing
  • Abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea or vomiting
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting
  • Constriction and tightening of airways
  • A swollen throat or the sensation of a lump in your throat that makes it difficult to breathe
  • Shock, with a severe drop in blood pressure
  • Rapid pulse

How does your school protect students with food allergies? Do you think schools should be required to keep epinephrine on hand?