Food allergies now affect 1 in 13 kids—that’s roughly two children per classroom. If you have a child with food allergies, you are already familiar with the challenges that accompany this health issue. Though you can closely control your child’s environment at home, you can’t always do so at school. What you can do, however, is be prepared to make your child’s school year as safe as possible.
Even before school starts, you can take a number of measures to enlist the help of the school’s staff members in keeping your child healthy and free from allergic reactions.
- Start by contacting the school and scheduling a meeting with the appropriate personnel. This might include principals, teachers, the nurse, and the food service manager. Make sure that you come to the meeting with all the supporting information you will need to help the staff understand the nature and scope of your child’s allergies. Visit the Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) website to get a template for a Food Allergy And Anaphylaxis Emergency Care Plan. Before the school meeting, fill out the form and take it to your physician for review. Bring a duplicate of the plan so your school can keep a copy on hand.
- Communicate regularly with your child’s teacher. The classroom is the hub of activity so it’s important to ensure that it will be a safe environment for your child. You can do this by establishing an ongoing rapport with your child’s instructor. Talk through potential scenarios:
- What can your child’s teacher offer your student as an alternative to a food incentive (such as a class pizza party)?
- If parents bring in food for their child’s birthday or for holidays, what ingredients does your child need to avoid?
- How can your child manage their food allergy without feeling different or singled out?
- How will cafeteria seating be handled?
- What allergy symptoms does your child usually display? What should be done if your child has an allergic reaction?
- Are field trips planned for the year? Could they expose your child to food allergens?
Open communication can help you feel at greater ease and keep your child safe and well. As you educate the school staff, they can become your ally in the effort to keep your child healthy.
If allergies are monopolizing your child’s life, consider talking to your physician about diagnosis using a turnkey allergy test program. Your physician can also prescribe sublingual immunotherapy (oral allergy drops) to help desensitize your child to food allergens. Ask your allergy doctor about wheat, milk, and nut allergy treatment.