If you have a school age child with food allergies, don’t forget to include a Food Allergy Plan in your back-to-school preparations. Roughly two kids in every classroom have a food allergy and of those kids, roughly 16 to 18 percent have experienced allergic reactions while at school. Surprisingly, about 25 percent of these students had no idea that they were having a food allergy reaction. Thus, communication is vital—not only with your child but also with the school officials who will be interfacing regularly with your child.
Here are a few steps for keeping your food-allergic child safe this coming school year:
1. Take Action Early
If you believe your child may have a food allergy, visit an allergist for a proper diagnosis before school starts. If your child is diagnosed with a food allergy, or if you already know that your child has a food allergy, your doctor can likely provide you with forms such as a medical authorization form or special dietary needs accommodation form.
2. Inform the School Regarding Your Child’s Allergy
Notify the school about your child’s allergy. Schedule an appointment to meet with them and review the school’s allergy plan. The school can help you with an Individualized Health Care Plan (IHCP) or Emergency Care Plan (ECP). IHCP and ECP involve the cooperation of the school nurse, along with the parents, the allergic student’s health care provider, and school personnel.
If the school does not have forms in place, visit the FARE website (Food Allergy Research and Education) at www.foodallergy.org for a wealth of helpful forms.
3. Educate your Child
Regularly remind your child about safe and unsafe foods. Give them strategies on how to avoid unsafe foods that may show up in the school cafeteria or at classroom parties. (If your child reads, you can also teach them about the importance of reading food labels and what ingredients to watch for). Let your child know the symptoms of allergic reactions and what to do when they occur.
A little advanced planning on your part can help eliminate unsafe situations. If your child’s food allergies are adversely affecting their (and your) quality of life, consult an allergist. While avoidance used to be the only defense against food allergies, sublingual immunotherapy has been shown to be effective in minimizing food allergies. Sublingual immunotherapy is similar to allergy shots, but it is delivered through under-the-tongue drops.