The incidence of food allergies has grown, and some daycare and preschool facilities are experienced in keeping food allergic kids safe.
However, some care centers may be inexperienced with food allergies, and their willingness to work with you for your child’s protection will determine whether the facility is suitable.
Checklist for Allergy-Safe Child Care
- __ Always visit the prospective daycare or preschool. It is the only way to accurately gauge the staff’s competence and willingness to accommodate your child’s allergy. Any reluctance on their part is a red flag waving you away from that facility—no matter how exceptional the center is in other respects.
- __ Take a written list of important questions with you on the visit. For instance, has the staff had formal training about food allergies? Do they know reactions to allergens vary and that each child requires a personalized safety plan? Is the staff willing to learn how to use an injectable epinephrine device (e.g., EpiPen, Auvi-Q)? Will they work on educating the other parents to ensure the safety of your child?
- __ You may want to tell the staff how you plan on making the situation easier for them. Offering to work as a volunteer, providing safe snacks for the group or class, or sharing food allergy training materials can facilitate your child’s transition to the new surroundings.
- __ Have a written action plan in place before your child begins attending the center. The plan needs to outline two things: 1) how the staff will routinely manage the avoidance of allergen contact (e.g. hand/face washing, meal/snack supervision, no food sharing), and 2) an emergency action plan from the child’s doctor listing the signs of an allergic reaction and detailing the medication, dosage, and procedure to follow if a reaction occurs.
- __ Provide the center with an ample supply of medication (e.g., antihistamine, epinephrine) to be kept in an unlocked cupboard or cabinet that is only accessible to adults.
- __ Work in partnership with the staff to prepare in advance for special events or field trips. You might send your child to the center with a safe treat for holiday parties, or volunteer to chaperone outings. You could provide bottled water if your child needs to avoid drinking fountains.
- __ Consider having your child wear a medical identification bracelet—it will serve to remind the staff of your child’s allergy.
For very detailed guidance concerning school settings and allergies, search the title Managing Food Allergies in the School Setting: Guidance for Parents to find FARE’s (Food Allergy Research & Education) recommendations.
Your Child’s Rights
If a preschool or daycare is reluctant to accommodate children with food allergies, and your facility choices are limited, know that your child has rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
The ADA states that kids with severe or life-threatening allergies cannot be denied acceptance to a care program because of the allergies. Title II or III of the ADA requires childcare centers to administer medication to children having an allergic reaction; exceptions exist for religion-based daycares and preschools.