After taking years to deal with their children’s food allergies at home, it may seem like a nearly impossible task for parents to have to send their children to school. Food allergies can lurk around every corner with all sorts of foods containing peanuts or dairy and with gluten hiding in even non-food areas. These tips can help parents stay organized with their children’s food needs even when their children are no longer under their direct supervision.
Let the School Know
Any parent’s first step should be to let the school know about the allergy. This can be done in a variety of ways and to a variety of people. Communication should begin well before the school year starts, and parents should work with school administrators to fill out necessary forms, such as a medication authorization form if the child is able to administer his or her own epinephrine. Parents may also want to use a special dietary meals accommodation form if the child will be eating meals prepared by the school.
Check for an Allergen-Friendly Table
Parents should next find out if there is already a plan in place at the school for keeping foods clean and allergen-free. Some larger schools may have an allergen-friendly table where certain foods are kept away at all times. Children should be taught that they should never share food with other children because this could cause an allergic reaction.
Keep Epinephrine Close by
Children who use epinephrine pens should be taught how to self-administer if possible. If this is not an option, parents must be sure that there is always an epi pen available in the school nurse’s office or in the classroom.
Work with the Teacher Closely
Throughout the school year, a friendly discussion with the student’s teacher can help eliminate much frustration and confusion. The teacher should be aware of exactly what the child is allergic to and should be aware of how this could affect field trips, birthday celebrations and food in the classroom.
Of course, these are just the basics for managing food allergies at school. Parents and children may also want to do the following:
-Keep appropriate snacks on hand at school in case of a disaster
-Purchase allergen-free school supplies
-Teach children how to read food labels
-Give children opportunities to share about any bullying they face due to their allergies
One of the most important steps that parents can take is to meet with a reputable allergist who will be able to diagnose and troubleshoot any problems especially before a child heads off to school. At Bernstein Allergy Group, we deal with all types of allergies every day, including those troubling food allergies that can leave children in desperate need of a quick, life-saving solution in many cases. By using research and proven treatments, we can help parents learn smart tips for helping their children navigate school while keeping food allergies under control.