You’ve heard it before: When you’re a parent, the worry never ends. Man, they weren’t kidding. Whether you’re searching for sleep solutions or tips to manage temper tantrums, mom-ing comes with a long to-do list. Everyone wants what’s best for their child, and that doesn’t change once they head off to school. In fact, new worries — like learning setbacks and bullying — keep you up at night. But if your kid has food allergies, then you’re dealing with a unique set of concerns. So how do you teach your child to manage food allergies at school?
“The most important aspect of having a food allergic child in the school is having an allergist-confirmed food allergy diagnosis and a food allergy action plan that is communicated with the teachers and school nurse,” Dr. Sujan Patel, a pediatric allergist at Hassenfeld Children's Hospital at NYU Langone, says in an email interview with Romper. “Additionally, having a food allergy bracelet, necklace, or other notification device assists in identification of potential food-related anaphylaxis should accidental exposure occur. Teaching your child early on about their allergy and recognition of the food they’re allergic to can be integral as well.”
Dr. Purvi Parikh, an allergist and immunologist with Allergy & Asthma Network, says prepping the school will make managing allergies easier for a child. That means parents should make sure all paperwork related to your child’s allergy is filled out with the school and updated every summer before school starts so they have the most accurate information. The school should also have its own supply of all rescue medication the child needs, such as EpiPens and asthma inhalers. Parikh recommends asking your doctor for extra prescriptions if necessary so medications are readily available at school, at home, with the babysitter, and in your child's backpack. Do a double check that medication is not expired.
“Make sure the school has clear instructions on what they can eat and if anything is required before and during gym classes, class trips, and sports practices,” Parikh says.
Stacy Haynes, a chid psychologist and mother to a 10-year-old daughter with peanut allergies, says preparation is key for helping her daughter to feel safe at school. Haynes tells Romper in an email interview that she sends in a snack bag at the beginning of school so that her daughter can have a snack when unsafe treats are offered to other students. She has also taught her daughter to read all labels and learn about brands that are considered safe for her allergy. Haynes’ daughter also wears a necklace from Lauren’s Hope that identifies her allergy when she is in public.
“My biggest concern for her is other people not being mindful of allergies in the classroom,” Haynes says. "It is so hurtful for her to come home from a birthday and she could not have the cupcakes or other treats due to her allergy. Parents really have to remember that while we get it, children don’t.”
Haynes says her daughter is very much an advocate for her allergy and often reminds her mom to bring medications and special snacks to after-school activities. “It does make a difference when the children are aware of their allergies and that you always have an alternative plan just in case,” she says.
Sounds like the kids are doing alright — a bit of reassurance for worried parents everywhere.