When you're the parent of a child with food allergies, sending them to school can feel like an overwhelming task. But with some planning and preparation, transitioning your child into the school year can be successful.
Parents will have to form relationships with the school including teachers, school staff, other parents and classmates.
Here are some ways to prepare your child with food allergies at school.
Communicate with the school
Do your homework before sending a child with allergies back to school. Communicate with the school early, and inform them about your child’s food allergies and specific needs.Check with the school about filling out the appropriate medical forms, including:
Medication Authorization forms which state whether the child can self-carry and/or self-administer medications at school. These forms are required even if the medication will be stored and administered by school staff.
Special Dietary Meals Accommodation form if your child will be eating meals provided by school.
Emergency Action Plan (EAP) form will inform caregivers what to do in case of an allergic emergency.
Forms should provide the following information:
- A complete list of foods to which your child is allergic.
- The possible symptoms of your child’s allergic reaction.
- The treatment that should be administered to your child, and under what circumstances. Contact information for emergency medical services (i.e., 911), your child’s allergist, and you.
- A current photo of your child.
Besides these forms, the school may ask you to provide information such as allergy test results and any history of your child’s allergic reactions. The school also may require you to complete additional medical forms not necessarily related to food allergy.
Because food allergy has become such an emerging health issue, especially among children, many schools have already adopted and implemented food allergy management strategies.
Find out how the school generally manage students with food allergies; find out if there is a nurse on site, and how allergic reactions would be handled. Inquire about staff training. If the school has a cafeteria, ask how they handle food allergies. If your child takes the school bus, talk to the principal about protocols.
Work with the school to create a comprehensive Food Allergy Management and Prevention Plan. This is typically either an Individualized Health Plan (IHP) or a 504 Plan.
Know where medications are held
Knowing where your child’s prescribed epinephrine is located, who has access to it, and who will administer the medication in the event of an emergency is critical to supporting your child’s health and wellbeing at school.
Depending on your child’s circumstances, you may need to provide the school with additional medications such as antihistamine and/or asthma inhalers. Also, make sure the medications have not expired.
Talk to everyone else
Speak to your child’s teachers as well as lunch monitors, cafeteria staff, school bus staff, as well as other parents who will have contact with your children throughout the day. Inform them of your child’s allergy so that they are aware in any circumstance.
For some parents, sending a child with life-threatening food allergies off to school can feel like an overwhelming task. Successfully transitioning your child into school requires forming a partnership between you and the school.