Back-to-School with Food Allergies: 7 Must-Have Tools
Updated August, 2016: Back-to-school season is a big deal in every student’s life. But when a child has food allergies, a parent must super organized and communicate well to ensure that the school is on top of anaphylaxis prevention measures and safety protocols. Also essential is that your student gets to be a full participant in school life, including class activities or outings. To help guide you through achieving these goals, Allergic Living provides:
The School & Allergies Seven
1. Every allergic child needs a Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Action Plan.
If you haven’t submitted one yet to the school, do make it a priority. A doctor will fill out and sign this important tool that details your child’s allergies, sets out the symptoms of anaphylaxis, and reminds school staff members of when to give epinephrine and the emergency steps to follow promptly in case of your child has an allergic reaction. You’ll also sign it to provide medication authorization.
2. Know and act on your allergic student’s rights to accommodations.
In U.S. schools, all students with a medical condition should have an IHCP or Individual Health Care Plan. Beyond that document is the individualized 504 Plan, which includes measures to ensure that students with “disabilities” have equal access to education in public schools. Many food-allergic students have 504 Plans, and Allergic Living highly recommends seeking one for strong clarity on accommodations – from the class to the lunchroom to the bus to the field trip. Read about how to get one here.
When seeking a 504 Plan, learn what to do – and the big mistakes to avoid – in this excellent article by food allergy consultant Gina Mennett Lee.
In Canada: See provincial laws and policies on food allergy accommodations here.
3. CDC’s guidelines for managing food allergies in schools and daycare centers.
These are an excellent resource, covering everything from seating at lunch to field trips, bus driver training and avoiding food as classroom rewards. Make sure your child’s principal is aware of the guidelines. We summarize the key points and link to the CDC’s downloadable document here.
Our popular posters are great factual and visual reminders to share with your child’s school.
• Six That Save Lives; I Am a Child with Food Allergies; and more.
• Also: our e-book: 18 Things You Need to Know About Food Allergy Reactions.
5. Exclude the treats, not the child, in the classroom.
This article by Allergic Living magazine parenting columnist Gina Clowes offers superb strategies to get past the recurring classroom cupcake skirmishes and onto fun, food-free celebrations. Read it here. For more food-free school reward ideas, see this related article.
6. Stock epinephrine – Does your school have it?
A 2016 study found that a school-supplied epinephrine auto-injector was used in 38% of severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) across 6,500 U.S. schools in the 2013-2014 academic year. About 25 percent of the students who reacted were not previously known to have food or sting allergies, so would have no reason to carry an epinephrine auto-injector. While your allergic student needs to have auto-injectors at school, also ask about whether the school is keeping stock epinephrine. Epinephrine saves lives. Share this article about the study with the school.
7. Kids and their auto-injectors: Important points and experts’ advice.
Be sure to have a plan with school administrators and your student about where epinephrine auto-injectors will be kept. Given the need for quick-acting in an anaphylactic emergency, it’s wise to have the injectors with the student (or with a teacher with young children). Remind tweens and teens that the locker is NOT an appropriate place to keep auto-injectors, as that’s behind a lock and the student may be at a distance.
Ask the allergists Q&As:
- How do I know when to use the auto-injector?
- When is a child old enough to self-inject?
- My child’s impulsive. How can I guard against kindergarten allergen exposures?