FOOD ALLERGIES AT SCHOOL – A TEACHER’S PERSPECTIVE
Guest post by Michelle DeLorenzo
With a new school year quickly approaching, many parents are feeling excitement that their children will be back in a routine. But for parents of children with food allergies, excitement is replaced with nervousness.
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KEEPING STUDENTS WITH FOOD ALLERGIES SAFE AT SCHOOL
As an allergy parent, each day causes a level of anxiety that not many people understand. Worrying each time your child has a belly ache or a runny nose.. that this is the start of a reaction. Worrying that someone might accidentally expose your child to her allergen no matter how careful they are. Worrying each time your phone goes off during your work day that it’ll be a call from the school nurse over a reaction.
A TEACHER’S PERSPECTIVE
These concerns are very real and take daily stress to a new level. Speaking from a teacher’s perspective, I have a few tips that may help put your mind at ease during the long school year.. if that’s even possible. hahaha
7 TIPS FOR FOOD ALLERGIES AT SCHOOL
- Establish a strong relationship with your child’s teacher from the start of the school year. Don’t be hesitant to reach out via phone or email regarding your concerns. (Many parents are afraid of becoming “that parent”. In this case, be “that parent”!)
- Make your child’s allergies known to the teacher, nurse, administration (standard info given at the start of each school year with emergency contact info).
- Know where your child’s EpiPens will be kept throughout the day. With the teacher? In the nurse’s office? With your child?
- Make sure your child knows what an EpiPen is and how to administer. (Would you believe I’ve had students with allergies that don’t even know what an EpiPen is?! Parents simply thought their children were safe at school by avoiding their allergen and felt EpiPens were unnecessary. Principals and nurses then had to intervene to ensure students had access to proper medication while at school.)
- Be aware of the school’s food policy. Is there an allergy friendly table in the cafeteria? Nut free class? Nut free school?
- Let the teacher know what you are comfortable/uncomfortable with regarding classroom activities and celebrations. Teachers sometimes use food to teach particular lessons to better engage students (M&Ms to teach fractions, Conversation Hearts math activities for Valentine’s Day, etc.). Teachers are open to adjusting/eliminating activities or obtaining safe alternatives.
- Research 504 Plans. They can also be discussed with school administrators/ counselors. (To be honest, I didn’t even know a 504 was an option unless a student had a learning disability.)
FOOD ALLERGY MOM
Not only am I a teacher, but I’m also a mom to a daughter with a peanut allergy. These tips helped me as she entered kindergarten last year. She had gone from being at a home daycare for 5 years to a public school where I knew no one. Anxious was an understatement. In addition to the above tips, I also did the following.
I scheduled my daughter’s yearly allergist appointment and reviewed her Action Plan before school began.
I reached out to the school nurse 2 weeks before school and she offered to schedule a meeting. We reviewed her Action Plan and dropped off her Auvi-q’s. Auvi-Q is an epinephrine injection alternative to EpiPen.
TALK TO THE TEACHER
At Get to Know Your Teacher Night, I spoke with my daughter’s teacher about her peanut allergy. While doing so, I met another mom of a peanut allergy child in her class. Knowing my daughter wasn’t the only allergy child in the class was a relief. She wouldn’t be alone or singled out. (Turns out another child in her class had multiple allergies including nuts and chicken.)
FOOD ALLERGY SAFE TREATS IN THE CLASSROOM
My daughter’s teacher often reached out to me prior to school/classroom events that involved food. She informed me of brands or asked for suggestions. I also had no problems sending in my own items for my daughter. (I sent in safe cookies and toppings to decorate at Christmas time. I provided safe ice cream during an End of Year celebration. My daughter didn’t feel excluded by having an alternative.. many times she told me how her friends asked if they could have her treats instead!)
SECTION 504 PLAN FOR STUDENTS
At this time, I have not obtained a 504 Plan for my own daughter. Her kindergarten teachers and nurse were so helpful and understanding this past year that I felt comfortable with her attending school without a 504 Plan. If things change in the future, I will not hesitate in taking the steps to obtain one.
INFORM AFTER SCHOOL STAFF
My daughter also attended the After School Program. I again reviewed the Action Plan and happily showed staff members how to administer Auvi-q’s. Snacks were provided daily but I felt more comfortable sending in my own.. even if it happened to be the same brand. haha
GO OUT AND LIVE!
With all this said, my daughter’s allergy did not hold her back from any activity at school. She had a very successful and safe year! She made many new friends who take her allergy seriously and I met some great parents who care deeply for my daughter. I’ve even gotten to the point of dropping my daughter off for play dates with close friends. This was a huge step for me.. and you’ll get there too if you haven’t yet!
Just take it one school day.. one school year.. at a time!
What do you think? Do you have any tips for food allergies at school? Share in the comments!
For Further Reading:
- Managing food allergies at school, everything you ever wanted to know
- How to support a food allergy mom
- Remember to check snacksafely.com for the latest allergy information on snack items.
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