Food Allergies in Children
Sending your child to school every year is never easy. With loads of school shopping to get done, you need to make sure you get them everything they need (clothes, supplies, etc.), and then send them off for that first day and hope for the best.
In addition to ensuring that they have all the things they need for a successful school year, you’ll also want to ensure their health at school as well, especially if they have food allergies.
In the past few decades, we’ve seen an increase of food allergies in children. This has left parents of young children who are going to school feeling almost helpless in terms of making sure their children avoid certain foods that could potentially make them extremely sick.
If you have a child with food allergies, you know how scary it can be to put the health of your child in the hands of a school staff, regardless of how capable they might be.
However, the truth is that you’re not helpless when it comes to protecting your kids. There are many things you can (and should) do as a parent so that your child stays safe.
One of the first orders of business is to have your child tested for allergies, especially if you already know they are allergic to certain types of foods. Those who know of one allergy in their child might be tempted to assume they don’t need allergy testing, but it should be done in case there are other allergies that you aren’t aware of yet.
Image Courtesy of Healthy Lunch Ideas / Flickr
Once you’ve established what your child is allergic to, you need to go through a “back-to-school” checklist of your own to make sure your child is prepared.
What to Do
- Get a letter from your child’s pediatrician or allergist
This is something you’ll want to do before going to step two. If you meet with school staff, but don’t have any hard evidence that your child has certain allergies, they might be less likely to take you seriously or appreciate the severity of your child’s situation.
However, seeing a doctor’s note makes them much more liable, and chances are they’re willing to do everything they can in order to avoid a major health issue at their school.
The note helps, so after your child has gotten tested, get it on record.
In addition, if your child’s allergies are severe enough to cause major complications, your child’s physician may prescribe an EpiPen in the event that their allergies do in fact become an issue. However, it should be noted that an EpiPen should only be used in dangerous situations in order to avoid anaphylactic shock.
- Contact and meet with the school principal, nurse and teacher(s)
With a doctor’s note in hand, contact the school staff members (starting with the principal) and set up a time to meet and discuss your child’s situation. Sometimes, a phone call might be the best you can do, but in smaller schools, a face-to-face meeting with school administrators is probably doable.
Go over the note and discuss the specifics of your child’s situation– you might even be able to talk with those in charge of the cafeteria.
- Talk with your child and come up with a plan
Once you’ve got the school officials on board, sit down with your child and go over the things they need to avoid. Depending on the severity of their allergy, they may need to avoid a lot more, but it will vary depending on your situation.
Figure out what foods your child needs to steer clear of and make sure your child knows how to identify them.
- Pack a lunch
Kids will sometimes eat and share snacks at school, but a good way to avoid almost all possibility of trouble is to simply pack your child’s lunch yourself. You can include snacks and all the stuff you know your child can safely eat, along with a strict no-swapping-food-with-friends policy.
It’s a bit more work, but it will make certain that allergies aren’t an issue during your kid’s time at school.
The school system seems like a bit of an impersonal and unapproachable entity, but you’re not helpless when it comes to protecting your child and helping them have a healthy year without complications.
Most school administrators are receptive to parents who want to be involved in their children’s life at school, and food allergies in children are certainly a legitimate concern where you, as the parent, have every right to be heard.
If you can communicate with the school officials and with your child, you should have nothing to worry about.
Today’s guest writer is Virginia Cunningham, a freelance writer, mother of three and health enthusiast living in Southern California. Each school year, she makes sure to inform her children’s school of their health issues, and takes the necessary precautions in order to ensure their health and safety. What methods have you found to be helpful? Share your comments below!