Many parents look forward to the end of August or beginning of September when their children head back to school. However, for the parent of a child with food allergies, the beginning of the school year can be a time of high anxiety. The early days of the school year could be the most dangerous time for an allergic child, because their teachers and the other school staff don't yet know your child and their needs. This is even more worrying when your child is starting in a whole new school. Take a look at some tips that will ease your anxiety and help ensure your allergic child's safety.
Request A Meeting
If you've been dealing with this allergy for awhile, you probably have an emergency care plan written down and ready to go. However, nothing replaces an in-person meeting. Call the school and arrange to meet with the school nurse and your child's teacher, before the first day of school, if possible. Bring your child along with you so that they can put a face to the names.
Provide the nurse, your child's main teacher, and any other staff members that will work with your child regularly with a copy of your emergency care plan. Ask questions about anything that concerns you – for example, you may want to ask the teacher how they plan to handle snack time in the classroom. Also, many schools don't have a full time school nurse at all, so make sure that you find out if your school's nurse is full or part-time, and who will handle emergencies and allergy medications if the nurse is not there.
Find Out How The School Limits Allergen Exposure
If this is a new school to you, you should also meet with the administration to find out what steps they take, if any, to limit allergen exposure. There are a number of ways your child could be exposed that don't seem obvious at first.
For example, does the school use classrooms for after school activities, or rent out space to outside groups? If so, is food allowed? If your child is highly allergic to peanut butter, you don't want someone sitting at their desk dropping peanut butter sandwich crumbs after hours. Ask if they can avoid using your child's classroom for after school activities, or at least limit what snacks are allowed in there. You also want to ask what food rules are in place on school buses, on the playground, and during classroom parties.
Help Your Child Self-Advocate
It's important for a child with allergies to be able to speak up when they're experiencing a possible reaction, or when they're being offered food they know they can't eat. Role play with your child. Pretend to be the teacher and have them describe what an allergic reaction feels like. Pretend to be a cafeteria worker offering an allergenic food, and let your child practice firmly saying "no, I can't eat that. I'm allergic."
Make sure your child knows that insisting on attention when they're having a reaction, or saying no to an adult offering dangerous food isn't the same as being disrespectful or "talking back", and they won't get in trouble for it.
It's also a good idea to make an appointment with your child's allergist shortly before the school year starts. You'll probably need a recent prescription and a doctor's note to keep allergy medicine at the school, and your child's allergist can help you update your emergency plan and strategies for the upcoming school year.
For more information, contact clinics like Mid America Ear, Nose, & Throat Clinic PC.