Tips For Dealing With Food Allergies For School-Age Kids

Having a child with food allergies can lead to anxiety, particularly if your child goes to a mainstream school every day. After all, if you aren't there to make sure that everything he or she eats is allergen-free, how do you avoid a reaction? Here are a few key tips for helping your newly diagnosed child to ensure a safe school day.

Start With Communication

As soon as your child receives a diagnosis of a food allergy, reach out to the school administration. Ask if the school has an on-site nurse, and schedule a meeting with the principal and the nurse. If the school doesn't have a full-time nurse, ask the school board to consider appointing one.

Put your child's allergy diagnosis in writing addressed to the principal, the nurse and the district administrators. Tell them about both your child's allergy and the specific dietary accommodations and treatment needs that he or she will require. You'll also want to request that a 504 plan be established, which will define all of the special considerations and the steps to deal with potential exposures.

Request a meeting with the food services director for the school district as well. Ask him or her about how the school manages lunches for kids with food allergies. You should also find out what kind of training the school staff has in dealing with food allergies. They should understand not only how to prevent exposure, but how to recognize a reaction.

If your child's allergy is severe, consider asking for a separate food preparation process and a dedicated safe area for your child to eat. If your child will be eating school lunches, you'll also have to fill out the special dietary needs request for the school.

Address Classroom Safety

In the early education grades, food is a common component of classroom celebrations, including birthday parties and holidays. Talk with your child's teacher about how he or she handles these types of events and what you can do to keep your child safe. Consider volunteering to bring in allergen-safe foods or help chaperone events that will involve food. Also ensure that allergy information is available to substitute teachers at all times.

Educate Your Child

While it's important to have the school aware of and accommodating your child's food allergy, it's also important to ensure that your child knows how to avoid allergens. Teach him or her how to read food labels and stress the importance of not sharing food with others or consuming things that don't have a label.

Teach your child how to inject epinephrine on their own if they've been prescribed it. That way, you can be confident that an inadvertent exposure will be safely addressed no matter what the situation. You may even want to spend some time doing role playing activities to help your child gain confidence in refusing foods and educating friends about the new diagnosis.  

To learn more about food allergies, contact a company like Hinsdale Asthma & Allergy Center