CLOVIS, Calif. (KFSN) --Experts say one in thirteen kids lives with a food allergy-- some much more severe than others. Allergies to peanuts, eggs, and dairy are among the most common.
The peanut butter and jelly sandwich has, for generations, been a school staple. But five-year-old Emma Beck has severe peanut and dairy allergies. The kindergartner at Cedarwood Elementary in Clovis has to wear gloves in class to avoid contact with even trace amounts.
"We don't want it to be a matter of life or death for her, but we also want parents to know it is that severe. This isn't an exaggerated thing," said Brittany Beck, mother.
Brittany and Shane Beck are thankful Emma's teacher reminds parents the classroom is a nut and dairy free area.
"Luckily Cedarwood has been amazing," said Brittany.
But Emma's rare condition causes great concern because it can bring on breathing problems.
"A little unsettling still with her still being as young as she is. She's still very vocal, but sending her out there is kind of like sending her to the wolves. You don't know what you're going to get," said Shane.
The number of students with food allergies has dramatically risen over the years.
"According to the CDC, there's a 50-percent increase from 2009 to 2011. So we're clearly seeing an increase," said Janene Armas, Health Services Coordinator.
For Emma, it is not a matter of being lactose intolerant. Her teacher and parents keep an EpiPen handy in case she merely touches dairy or peanut residue.
"That's enough to cause her severe reaction," said Brittany.
Which is why Emma must place a mat over the classroom rug. Additional safeguards are always taken. She puts on thicker gloves before heading to the playground since so many other kids use the same equipment.
"School playgrounds, since it's still new to us used to wearing the gloves out there as well," said Shane.
Clovis Unified has 1217 students with food allergies. Central unified has identified 809 kids, while Fresno Unified has 765.
The districts take similar approaches in setting aside designated tables in the cafeteria for kids with food allergies.
"And if it's a severe one we do have the nut-free tables and students are allowed to sit there with their friends. The meals are monitored to make sure no nuts are involved," said Lisa Persons, Asst. Director of Child Nutrition.
Having their friends with them at lunch keeps kids from feeling isolated.
"We want to make sure that in our district that we show compassion, acceptance," said Armas.
Such a table will be available for Emma next year, but the Becks hope she can fit in and they don't want to homeschool her.
"Children at this young of age five or six-years-old, kindergarten, they're still accepting. They're not really pointing or isolating other children at this point so this is a trial for us," said Shane.
Emma brings gloves to birthday parties and her mom brings her own snacks.
Emma is only allowed to have a certain kind of cheese and chocolate chips. She also drinks rice milk.
The Becks aren't asking parents to stop packing their kid's favorite foods.
"Just raising awareness and making people understand that what you put in your child's snack could very well be our daughter's last touch," said Brittany.
Instead of outgrowing her allergies Emma's have only gotten worse.