Food allergies and school: How to get ready

Managing food allergies and school can be tough for families. Staying organized and some prep work can help keep kids stay safer at school.

If you have a child with a food allergy, the thought of sending them to school can be daunting. Managing food allergies and school often comes down to some prep work and organization. Here we provide you with some tips to help kids with food allergies stay safer at school.

How to manage food allergies and school

    • Make a pediatric allergist appointment. First things first, you’ll want to make an appointment with your child’s pediatric allergist. You can work with your child’s allergist to update or adjust your child’s emergency plan, which outlines what should happen after a child experiences a serious allergic reaction. At the appointment, you also can discuss any prescriptions that you need refilled for your child’s medicine supply.
    • Consider buying a medical alert bracelet. A bracelet can include your child’s name, emergency contact information and specific allergy. A bracelet also may include whether epinephrine should be given due to a severe reaction.
    • Set a meeting with your school. Try to set a meeting with your school’s principal, your child’s teacher and the school nurse if the school has one. You can go over your child’s emergency plan and emphasize that if your child experiences a severe reaction to administer epinephrine immediately and to dial 911. Learn where the nurse’s office is and how far it is from your child’s classroom, the lunch room and any recess areas. While speaking with your child’s educators, consider asking:
      • Where is food kept?
      • Where will my child eat?
      • Who cleans the tables? Can the tables be cleaned with disinfectant wipes rather than sponges, which potentially could spread allergens?
      • Who monitors children while they are eating?
      • Who is responsible for monitoring hand-washing? Can they make sure children wash hands with soap and water before and after eating? Hand sanitizer does not eliminate allergens.
      • Who trains substitutes and special subject educators on recognizing and treating allergic reactions?
      • Where is epinephrine kept and who should administer it if needed?
      • Do you discourage food sharing among the children for safety? If not, would you consider doing so?
      • Is food used as reward in the classroom? If so, can this be reconsidered for different types of rewards?
      • Can advanced notice be provided of food-related events or parties so you can accommodate your child?

Norton Children’s Allergy & Immunology, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine

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  • Get your child’s supplies ready. Make sure you have all of your child’s medicines ready to go. Provide the school with medications that won’t expire until after the end of the school year. If that’s not possible, make sure to set a reminder for yourself to give replacements when those medicines are set to expire. Label your child’s epinephrine container with your child’s name, photo and your emergency contact info. If your child won’t have the epinephrine auto-injector with them, make sure it’s available wherever your child may go within the school. Additionally, you may want to offer your child a supply of hand wipes and snacks that are safe for them.
  • Get your child ready. Your child’s school and teachers may be supportive and on top of it, but you need your child to be, too. As your child matures and becomes more aware, they can take on more responsibility for their allergy management at school. Parents can help prepare their child:
    • Make sure your child understands their allergen. Make sure they understand which foods are safe for them and which are not.
    • Make sure your child understands not to accept food from classmates and not to eat anything if they are unsure. You may want to make sure they eat only foods packed by you or provided by the teacher if you approved.
    • Make sure your child understands that they should wash their hands before and after eating or playing outside.
    • Make sure your child knows to get their teacher’s attention if they don’t feel well for any reason, including the following:
      • Food tastes hot or spicy
      • Tongue feels hot
      • Tongue or mouth itches or feels funny
      • Their lips feel tight
      • Face swelling
      • Feel like they can’t breathe
      • Rash
      • Wheezing
      • Vomiting