If your child has a food allergy, she’s not alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control, roughly 4-6 percent of children in the United States are affected by food allergies.
“Since there is no cure and allergic reactions can be sometimes life-threatening, it’s important to make sure your child is safe whenever and wherever he may be, especially his classroom,” said Tracy Rife RN, BSN, AE-C, an asthma and Easy Breathing program coordinator at Akron Children’s Hospital.
Tracy offered the following recommendations to keep children with allergies safe throughout the school year.
1. Communication – Contact your child’s principal and school nurse to tell them about her allergy management needs. Ask if there are food allergy policies in place. Check to see if staff members have received training. Request a meeting with key personnel.
2. Paperwork – Complete and turn in the following forms before school starts. You’ll need a doctor’s signature on each form.
- Medication authorization forms that state your child can self-carry and/or self-administer medications at school. You’re required to complete these forms even if medications are stored and administered by school personnel.
- A special dietary meals accommodation form if you child eats meals provided by the school.
- An Emergency Action Plan (EAP) form so caregivers know what to do in an allergic emergency.
3. Doctor appointment – Get the doctor’s signature on the above forms. Make sure you’re supplied with necessary prescriptions for emergency medications, such as epinephrine auto-injectors.
4. Meet with the school nurse and food services to determine:
- When the school nurse is at the school and how she can be reached.
- Who cares for students when they’re sick if a nurse is unavailable.
- Where your child’s emergency medications will be kept during the school day.
- What experience the school has had with food-related emergencies.
- How food allergies are managed on school buses and during after-school activities.
- How food and medications are handled during emergencies, such as evacuations.
- Whether or not the school nurse trains staff on managing food allergies.
- How the school deals with bullying related to food allergies.
- How the school manages cafeteria meals, as well as meals or snacks in the classroom, for students with food allergies.
- How your child can request cafeteria meals prepared with safe substitutions.
5. Allergy-related supplies – Provide the school with epinephrine auto-injectors in the original packaging labeled with your child’s name. Make sure they don’t expire during the school year. It’s also a good idea to supply your child with:
- Safe snacks for times when your child may need them.
- Hand wipes.
- Nonperishable foods for emergency situations like disasters.
6. Teacher conference – Make sure your child’s teacher knows:
- How to control allergies in the classroom and in special areas like art or music rooms.
- How to read ingredient labels.
- What snacks are safe.
- How classroom celebrations can be enjoyed with non-food items.
- Rules regarding no food sharing.
- Preparing for field trips (e.g., who will carry your child’s medication).
- Proper cleanup after eating.
- Good hand-washing practices.
- Informing substitute teachers about your child’s allergies.
7. Teach your child age-appropriate food allergy management skills like:
- Never sharing food.
- Reading food labels and avoiding foods without labels.
- Carrying and using an epinephrine auto-injector.
- Recognizing the signs and symptoms of a reaction.
- How to inform an adult if they start experiencing a reaction.
- Reporting bullying or harassment by students or staff.
- Sitting with classmates in the cafeteria.