For parents of kids with food allergies, back-to-school prep means more than clothes shopping and buying school supplies. Or it should.
Here’s a checklist designed to help kids with allergies stay safe this school year – it even includes guidelines for schools co-written by an expert from the Food Allergy Center at Children’s Medical Center.
|1.||Food Allergy Action Plan||This is a document that lists the child’s allergies, medications, emergency contacts, includes a photo of the child and is signed by the physician. A copy should be kept at the school, daycare, the child’s backpack, after-school lessons or sports, etc. Keep extra copies for substitute teachers, parents of your child’s friends, etc.|
|2.||Teamwork||Talk with your child’s teachers and administrators at school to make them aware of the extent of your child’s food allergies, and enlist their help in keeping your child safe and free from allergens. Provide school officials with copies of the Food Allergy Action Plan. Do the same for child care and anyone else who interacts closely with or cares for your child.|
|3.||Documents from the Doctor||Ask your child’s doctor for documentation of all your child’s allergies. Some schools may require this as part of their Food Allergy Policy.|
|4.||School Food Allergy Policy||Ask for a copy of your school’s policy. Statewide guidelines for schools to help students with food allergies have been published for many states. Children’s allergy expert, Drew Bird, M.D., was instrumental in getting the guidelines passed for Texas.|
|5.||Epinephrine Pen||If your child experiences life-threatening reactions to food or if your doctor has prescribed it, talk to your school about the safe use and storage of epinephrine auto-injector pens (EpiPens). EpiPens should have a 1-year shelf life, so be sure to check the expiration date.|
|6.||Meal Plan||Schools are required to post menus in advance and to accommodate special dietary requests made in writing, so food purchased from school is not out of the question. However, to be 100% sure your child eats only allergen-free food, a lunch from home is the safest bet. Be sure to emphasize a “no food sharing or trading” rule with friends. Encourage hand-washing after food handling and eating. Soap and sanitizing wipes effectively clean hands of potential allergens, but antibacterial sanitizing gels do not.|
Food Allergy Facts
- One in 13 kids has food allergies. That’s about two per classroom.
- There are 5.9 million kids with food allergies in the United States.
- If they were all in the same state, it would be the 19th largest in the nation.
- Nearly 40% of kids with food allergies have experienced a severe or life-threatening reaction.
- Studies show up to 18% of kids with food allergies had a reaction in school.