Friday, August 30, 2013

Food Allergy Awareness in the Montessori Environment: Recognizing Reactions

I was speaking with a new Montessori teacher recently about her plans for the first weeks of school, and she expressed concern about having two children with severe food allergies joining her class. She had little experience with allergies and was unsure how to best meet their needs and keep them safe.

NAMC food allergy awareness in the montessori environment boy with crackers

According to Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), food allergies affect approximately 15 million Americans. In the US, this means that 1 out of 13 children have food allergies. It stands to reason that in a classroom of 30 children at least two will have food allergies! While nearly every food is capable of causing an allergic reaction, eight main culprits account for 90% of all food allergies:

Recognizing and Preparing for Food Allergies in Your Montessori Environment

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

Allergic reactions vary from child to child and range from mild to severe. Anaphylaxis is a severe, potentially fatal allergic reaction that requires immediate administration of epinephrine via an auto-injector followed by a visit to the emergency room.

NAMC food allergy awareness in the montessori environment baby with watermelon

Recognizing Allergic Reactions in Children

Young children may have difficulty expressing how they are feeling during a reaction. Their voices may change or they may begin to slur their words. They may also describe the reaction in one of the following ways:

  • "This food is too spicy."
  • "My tongue is hot [or burning]."
  • "It feels like something’s poking my tongue."
  • "My tongue [or mouth] is tingling [or burning]."
  • "My tongue [or mouth] itches."
  • "It [my tongue] feels like there is hair on it."
  • "My mouth feels funny."
  • "There's a frog in my throat."
  • "There’s something stuck in my throat."
  • "My tongue feels full [or heavy]."
  • "My lips feel tight."
  • "It feels like there are bugs in there." (to describe itchy ears)
  • "It [my throat] feels thick."
  • "It feels like a bump is on the back of my tongue [throat]."

List courtesy of Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), 2013

With the risk of fatal reactions, children with food allergies are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act under section 504. It is important for all Montessori teachers in public schools, private schools, and child care centers to make accommodations to keep children with food allergies safe.

Additional Resources:

NAMC food allergy awareness in the montessori environment almond happy face
As much as possible, NAMC’s web blog reflects the Montessori curriculum as provided in its teacher training programs. We realize and respect that Montessori schools are unique and may vary their schedules and offerings in accordance with the needs of their individual communities. We hope that our readers will find our articles useful and inspiring as a contribution to the global Montessori community.
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Friday, August 30, 2013.


  1. As a Montessori teacher and mom of a child with life threatening food allergies, I thank you for posting this and for helping to raise awareness. It is so needed.
    Thank you.


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