If your school-aged child has recently been diagnosed with food allergies, it can leave you feeling anxious and worried when he or she is at school. It's hard to not be concerned when you can't be there to ensure that everything your little one comes in contact with is allergen-free. Here are a few tips to help you ensure that your child's school days are safe.
Meet With The School Administration
The very first thing you should do once you have a formal diagnosis is reach out to the school administration. Ask for a meeting with the principal and the school nurse. If your child's school doesn't have a nurse on staff full-time, you can petition the school board to make the position a full-time one. This is especially important for kids with food allergies because of the risks.
Ask the school administrators to establish a 504 plan for your child. This type of plan defines the special considerations required for your child's allergy, including any dietary changes or special meal and snack provisions. The plan should also detail how the school should handle a potential exposure.
Talk With Food Services
Along with the 504 plan and the discussion about nurse accessibility, you'll also want to have a conversation with the person in charge of food services for the school or the district. Find out how the school handles preparation and distribution of lunches for children with food allergies. You may also want to ask about the training the kitchen staff has received in dealing with these allergies and avoiding cross-contamination.
If your child has a severe allergy, such as those that risk anaphylactic shock, consider asking about a completely separate food preparation area and a space in the cafeteria that's designated as a safe environment for your child to eat. Some schools may also require a dietary needs request form detailing the allergy.
Address Safety In The Classroom
For younger kids, classroom safety is a very real concern when it comes to food allergies. Take time to meet with your child's teacher to discuss any holiday celebrations, birthday parties and class projects that may involve food. Ensure that everything brought into the classroom is allergen-free so that your child is safe, or request that the district institute a "no food" policy for classrooms. This reduces the risk of any potential exposures due to another parent's misunderstanding or the teacher's oversight.
Talk with your child's allergist about the risk of food allergen exposure to ensure that you fully understand how to protect your child. In addition, see if there are any classes or training sessions that will help empower your child to watch for potential exposures as well.
For a food allergy doctor, contact a practitioner such as Alidina Laila MD.