With the school year about to start, here are five things you can do to prepare for the upcoming school year if your child has food allergies.
This quick checklist of items can help you better prepare for the added stress food allergies put on the first few days of school.
1. Know Your Child’s Allergies and the School’s Policies Regarding Them
If your child hasn’t had a comprehensive exam or hasn’t been specifically diagnosed with an allergy by a physician, you should make sure you have those before the school year begins. Knowing exactly what the allergies are means you’ll be aware of the triggers. This will make it easier to communicate both with the school and your child about allergic reactions and avoidance. This also may lead to a prescription for epinephrine, which could be life-saving.
Further, if you know what the allergens are, you can talk to the school and get their exact policies on how those are dealt with. Some schools may have blanket “food allergy” protocols while others may have only allergen-specific procedures. Know before your child goes.
2. Make a List of Questions for the School
Now that you know the allergies to worry about and the general policies about them, you can ask your school’s administrator or health administrator specific questions as to how all of this pertains to your child.
What is the policy on epinephrine auto-injector carrying and use? What are the lunchroom policies for food allergies? Snacks in the classroom? These are examples of things you might need to know.
3. Discuss Medications
If your child is on medications of any type, especially allergy meds, you should know how, when, and who has to be involved in those medications being dispensed and taken. Some schools allow older children to carry their meds and use them as needed. Others will be more strict about that and require that medications (and a copy of their prescription) be given to the school nurse or other faculty to dispense.
Understand these rules and make sure your child does as well. If you have an epinephrine injector, make sure that is specifically accounted for in these discussions.
4. Develop an Action Plan and Discuss It with Your Child
Once you know all of the rules and requirements surrounding the school as well as what can be expected, you can create an action plan. This plan should include ways for your child to avoid allergens, what to do in likely scenarios (including potential bullying), self-administration of treatments or specifics on who to go to in an emergency, etc.
This plan should be clearly spelled out in simple steps and presented to your child. Discuss the various plans and scenarios and what to do in those situations. Make sure your child is aware of who knows about his or her allergy and whether they can help in an emergency.
5. Go over What to Do in Certain Situations
Make sure to keep your child reminded of what to do should an emergency arise or a problem occur. How should your child react when the only food being offered is something they are unfamiliar with or know they are allergic to? Who should they talk to or where should they go if they begin to feel a reaction?
Going through these five steps and answering all of the questions you may have will go a long way towards alleviating the stress and anxiety that can come with food allergies in the school year. For both you and your child.