As many as 5.6 million children in the United States have food allergies. If your child is among this population, build a partnership with the school to keep your child safe. With cooperation, you, your child’s teachers, the school nurse, and administrators can help your child manage any food allergies.
Dr. Margaret Lubega, our pediatrician at First Pediatric Care Center, recommends the following steps when working with your school to manage your child’s food allergy.
Visit your pediatrician
Meet with Dr. Lubega to evaluate your child’s food allergy and obtain any medications needed to keep your child’s allergy at bay. Our team can also help you put together an emergency plan should your child be exposed to an allergen at school. This may include an epinephrine pen to use in the case of a serious allergic reaction known as anaphylactic shock.
Set up appointments with school officials
As soon as you know who your child’s teacher will be, request a meet up. In the meantime, meet with the school nurse and others who might be in charge of your child at snack or meal times. Always know where the epinephrine pen will be stored and how close it is to your child’s classroom and lunchroom.
At these appointments, bring the food allergy emergency plan and, when it’s close to the start of school, also bring medications that your child needs to manage their allergic reactions. If epinephrine is to be administered, make sure that’s clear to all responsible parties. Emphasize that epinephrine should be given if there is a severe allergic reaction and only after is 911 called.
Make sure that your child’s emergency plan is available for and reviewed with substitutes and guest teachers.
Work with your child’s teacher
Be available for your child’s teacher and willing to answer questions about safe foods and ingredients. Brainstorm ways to always include your child in activities and offer to supply safe snacks and snack ideas. For example, if the classroom has a cooking project, offer to bring ingredients and cooking tools that are safe for your child so they can still participate.
Assess the eating situations
Usually, school-age kids with allergies can sit in the regular lunch room with their peers. Ask if the school offers an allergen-aware table and what precautions are taken. Also find out where your child’s lunch will be kept and what the cleaning protocols entail. Ask about snack times, special holiday celebrations, and classroom birthdays, as you should know how the school handles treats.
Warn the staff about other allergen-containing items
If your child has a severe allergy to wheat or dairy, these products or their derivatives may be in other items found in the classroom. This includes art supplies and the class pets’ food.
Help your child understand their allergy
Fully review with your child which foods are safe to eat and which foods aren’t. Make sure your child knows not to share food with other kids. They should always wash their hands before and after eating.
Help your child develop the confidence to speak up if they feel unwell or if they’re experiencing signs of an allergic reaction, like face swelling, trouble breathing, wheezing, or a rash.
Contact us for help with establishing an allergy care and emergency plan for your child. Use the tool here to book your child’s appointment at our office in Gastonia, North Carolina, and get them the comprehensive care they deserve and need.