Back to School: Food Allergy Guide

Whether your child is entering preschool, grade school or college, if he or she has food allergies, there are precautions that must be taken.  No matter if your child is staying at the same school, he or she will most likely have a new teacher.  In our home, my son will be in first grade and having his first experience eating lunch away from home everyday. Everything that has been reviewed in the past with teachers, school nurses and personnel, has to all be taught again.

I have put together a quick guide to help cover most of the basis for this task now at hand. (As hard as I have tried to deny the end of summer and start of school, it is right upon us.)  Perhaps you have a child with newly discovered food allergies or a young child just entering school, this guide is particularly important for you.  For all of you seasoned parents of school-aged food allergy children, please chime in with any advice.

Two Important Tips for Back to School with Food Allergies:

  1. Preparation
  2. Relationships

Preparation

  • Find out if your school has food allergy guidelines already in place.  See where you need to fill in any gaps.  Don’t assume anything!
  • Some schools may have implemented a mandatory training class for all teachers.  While this is a great resource, train the teachers anyway on your child’s specific allergy needs.
  • Set up a meeting with all teachers and school personnel that will be involved with your child to go over all the details of your child’s allergies, care and procedure, and emergency management/response.  Don’t wait until the first day of school when things are chaotic.
  • Get a letter from your child’s doctor outlining your child’s medical condition.
  • Label all emergency medication that will be kept at school.  Check the expiration date on everything and update as needed.  Make sure everyone knows where these emergency medications are located and how they are to be used.
  • Write up a detailed checklist to be posted in the classroom.  My son has a binder that is used for the entire day.  I write on an index card the foods that he is allergic to as well as my contact information and tape it securely to the front of the binder.  This way all substitute teachers will know the precautions as well.
  • Find out if foods will be used in the classroom for activities.  Bring in a replacement to be kept in the classroom.  For example, my son’s kindergarten class played phonogram bingo with goldfish crackers.  Because he has a dairy allergy, the teacher kept oyster crackers in the cabinet for him.  In addition, if there was a birthday party for a student, a special treat was kept in the cabinet for him as well.  I allowed him to pick out this treat and made sure it wasn’t something that we normally had so that it would be special for him.  Be sure to label all of this stocked classroom food.
  • Get the dates for classroom celebrations so that you can either supply the food for the entire class, be a parent volunteer and/or send in a special alternative treat for your child.
  • Talk to your child about the precautions he/she must take to avoid contact with food allergies.  Also, discuss the need to alert teachers immediately in the event of contact or allergic reaction.

Relationship

  • You must build a positive, open relationship with all school personnel.  Food allergies may be something new to the school, so be persistent with your training.  At the same time, be understanding and patient.
  • Be courteous in your dealings with school personnel.  Try to take as much of the responsibility on yourself as possible.
  • If a teacher is being uncooperative, address your issues to the principal (in a calm and courteous manner).
  • If you do not feel comfortable in the environment after all the prep work has been done, you may need to consider an alternative.
  • Finally, be in constant communication with your teacher and school.  Make sure everything is running smoothly and address any issues.  Always keep an open line of communication going.

Remember, assume the best, but prepare for the worst!

Are there any back to school tips that you can add for the food allergy family?

You can also read this previous post about our experiences with food allergies and school.

Additional Resources for Back to School:  Kids with Food Allergies and Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network.

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6 Responses to Back to School: Food Allergy Guide

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  2. Thank You so much for the idea of the folder/binder. This is my son’s first year in school and I have already had some issues. I LOVE his teacher, but I don’t think she has ever dealt with a child that has so many severe food allergies. I am trying to be patient and I keep having “small” meetings with her and I just sent her a lengthy e-mail this week. I don’t want her to think I am jumping onto her, but how do you call a teacher out on something without that happening? Any tips for me? I have a labeled plastic container with “safe” foods for him at school…but she keeps giving it to ALL of the kids at treats. It’s going to get expensive if I have to supply candy all year long! ~
    Thanks again for the great informative post! ~Lisa

    • Cook says:

      The “treat” box that my son has at school is for him only and the teacher knows it. As far as I know, he’s only had 1 treat so far this year for a birthday. I know the dates of the classroom parties, so I can send in a “like” treat on those days. His “treat” box is only for days when I don’t know about a special event, like a birthday. I allowed him to pick the treat out as a special “treat” because he doesn’t get it at home. It was some sort of entirely too sugary and not healthy for you gummy snacks or gushers or something along that line. There aren’t enough in the box for the entire class.

      I would talk to your son’s teacher again about this treat only being for times when all the other students have a special treat that your son is not allowed to have. This is the time that he gets to choose from his treat box. If she’s handing the treats out all the time, what is the point? It’s not really a “treat” then, imo.

      You’ve given me an idea for a post on “when things aren’t going well at school” and “how to address concerns with your teacher.”

      Was that helpful at all or just more confusing? Don’t hesitate to let me know if you have more questions!

      Michelle

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