Susan Weissman, whose 9-year-old son, Eden, is allergic to milk, eggs, and peanuts, wants to remind parents whose kids have allergies to make sure their child’s coaches and teachers are aware of them.
Whether you’re preparing your kindergartener for their very first day of school, or getting your teen ready to start another year of high school, parents of children with severe food allergies have more to prepare than their child’s back-to-school wardrobe.
With the new school year comes big changes. Will your child’s new teacher take their allergy seriously? Will a new friend unknowingly offer up a cookie that contains peanuts? The start of the school year is an opportunity to make your child’s caretakers – including teachers, coaches, and the school nurse – aware of their allergies. Make sure there’s a fresh stock of medication at school, and check to see whether any of the school’s policies have changed from the previous year.
Advice From an Allergist
Dr. Maria Garcia-Lloret, a pediatric allergist who directs the pediatric food allergy clinic at UCLA, says “It’s now commonly accepted that between 6 and 8 percent of kids in school have a food allergy. That’s a lot – it means in a school with 1,000 students, there will be 60 to 80 with food allergies.” She says that this makes it a lot easier for parents to discuss their children’s allergies with school officials.
Garcia-Lloret also advises parents to be polite when making demands of the school. While many schools are peanut-free, others are not willing to go that far. Instead, push for school personnel to be trained to recognize the signs of an allergic reaction and to use an EpiPen. Demanding too much can lead to backlash, she says. “Many times these extreme measures generate strong opposition.” This can lead to a bullying problem for your kid. She stresses that the best approach is to focus on education.