Returning to the Classroom with Severe Allergies Requires Planning. Allergy Foundation Offers Tips and Information on Resources Available in Your State
The beginning of the school year is stressful for most healthy children and their parents. But when a child has food allergies, anticipating the coming school year becomes more nerve-racking.
For children with food allergies, the school day can present a wide range of situations that need to be carefully managed. The cafeteria presents a problem, so do the bag lunches friends bring to school and the classroom party treats sent by other parents.
Any number of food allergens can send an allergic child into a full-blown anaphylactic attack –the most severe form of allergic reaction. Epinephrine is the first-line treatment required to treat an anaphylactic reaction –not antihistamines –so parents, teachers and students need to be prepared and equipped with the right medication and knowledge.
In 2013, many states introduced bills enabling schools to keep a supply of epinephrine auto-injectors on hand just in case a child has a severe allergic reaction, but so far, lawmakers in Michigan, New York, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania have failed to enact these bills. Until every school is better prepared, there are steps you can take before the bell rings to ensure that everyone is prepared to prevent problems and handle emergencies. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) offers these tips to make sure your child has a safe start to the school year:
Become familiar with your state’s policies regarding food allergy education, prevention and emergency care at school. Look for state summaries on AAFA’s new report, the 2013 State Honor Roll™ of Asthma and Allergy Policies for Schools, and see the special article, “Where Does Your School Stand on Stocking Epinephrine?” at www.StateHonorRoll.org.
Be sure your child’s medical information is complete, up-to date, and in a form that is easily understood by school staff.
Your child’s medication should clearly show their name and the dosage.
Schedule appointments to meet with the school nurse, your child’s teachers, including the physical education teacher, and even the principal at a time when school staff is not too busy.
Talk with the cafeteria staff about food choices and special accommodations. Be clear and concise about the seriousness of the allergy, what your child is allergic to, and what can be done to ensure safety. It may help the staff if a picture of your child is posted in the kitchen.
Talk to your children about their responsibility to take medications and not taking food from other kids. Even at an early age, it is critical that your children begin to identify symptoms and learn to ask for help. Explain that they have to take action immediately because of the serious nature of an anaphylaxis reaction.