If your child has a food allergy, safety prevention belongs at the top of your back-to-school checklist.
“Ensuring that parents and school personnel are all on the same page as far as preventing exposures and treating symptoms is critical to keeping food-allergic children safe,” said Dr. B.J. Lanser, director of the Pediatric Food Allergy Program at National Jewish Health in Denver.
“In severe cases, a child doesn’t even have to eat a food to have life-threatening anaphylaxis. Just sitting next to a student who has food they’re allergic to can trigger a reaction,” he noted in a news release.
One child in 13 — or about two in every classroom — has a food allergy, Lanser said.
He offers four tips to keep your allergic child safe:
- Talk to school officials: Parents should meet with teachers, principals, nurses and cafeteria staffers to learn how the school manages food allergies. “Meeting with school personnel allows parents to ask questions and inform staff members about their child’s specific needs. It also helps put a parent’s mind at ease to see these precautionary measures for themselves,” Lanser said.
- Write it down: Ask your allergist to help you create a written plan that includes your contact information and details about your child’s food allergy, including ways to prevent accidental exposures and how to recognize and treat symptoms of an allergic reaction. “It should be on file with the school, and everyone who comes in contact with that child throughout the day should have a copy,” Lanser said.
- Post photos: Tape a photo of your child to the classroom wall along with information on their allergies to alert anyone who goes into the room. You can also post one on your child’s desk. “If there is a substitute or another parent that visits the classroom, they may not be aware of a student’s food allergies,” Lanser said. “Posting a photo is a quick and easy reference for anyone who does not have that child’s action plan.”
- Pack safe snacks: Pack allergen-free snacks so your child doesn’t feel left out if someone brings in a treat for the class.
Every student with a food allergy should have emergency medications readily available, including oral antihistamines and an epinephrine autoinjector, Lanser said.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has more on food allergies.