1. Be Well Informed
Some states have standing food allergy/management guidelines. If you live in a state that does, your child’s school will have allergy management policies in place already. Ask if the school has these types of policies in place and familiarize yourself with them.
Visit the Food Allergy & Education website to check your state’s food allergy/management guidelines.
2. Meet With Your Child’s Allergist or Pediatrician
Work with your child’s allergist or pediatrician to get a letter that explicitly states the precautions and treatment recommendations your child will need during the school year.
In addition, ask for the pediatrician’s help to complete a Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Emergency Plan. Note that your child’s school may have its own Emergency Plan form you should fill out; if not, you can download one here.
The form should include
- A complete list of foods or other agents to which your child is allergic.
- The possible symptoms of your child’s allergic reaction.
- The treatment that should be administered to your child, and under what circumstances.
- Contact information for emergency medical services (i.e., 911), your child’s pediatrician, and you.
- A current picture of your child.
- The signature of your child’s allergist or pediatrician.
3. Meet Your Child’s Teacher(s)
Schedule time to meet with the main teacher(s) with whom your child will be spending most of his/her time. Discuss classroom accommodations to help ensure your child’s safety (i.e., hand-washing, food in the classroom, a special treat box for your child, or other issues).
4. Meet The School Nurse
Schedule a meeting with the school nurse well in advance of the beginning of the school year. Find out what services are available and how the health room operates during a typical school day.
5. Meet The School’s Food Service Director
If possible, talk with the school’s food service director to find out how the school cafeteria manages students with food allergies. The most common ways for cafeterias to manage food allergies are:
- Making menus public in order to allow parents to identify potentially unsafe food and plan accordingly.
- Training food service personnel on food allergy issues such as avoiding cross-contact and reading food labels.
- Posting pictures of children with food allergies behind the counter or register.
- Using seating arrangements to minimize exposure to food allergens.
- Encouraging hand washing after eating and food handling.
- Washing surfaces after food is eaten or served.
6. Prepare Your Child
Depending on what’s appropriate for your child’s age group, start teaching them ways to ensure their own safety, such as:
- Carrying their prescribed epinephrine at all times.
- Knowing where their prescribed epinephrine is located at school (if they are not carrying it) and which school personnel can access the medication.
- Talking about food allergies with their classmates to raise awareness.
- Not eating any food whose ingredients are unknown, such as home-baked goods.
- Not sharing or trading food with classmates.
- Washing hands regularly.
- Reading food labels to identify potential food allergens.
- Learning how to recognize the symptoms of a reaction and to tell an adult immediately if they suspect an allergic reaction.
7. Prepare All Necessary Items Before School Starts
Purchase all the extra items you will need to drop off for your child beyond the usual school supplies, like hand wipes, a special treat box, etc.
8. Provide The School With Appropriate Medications
If your child has been prescribed an epinephrine auto-injector, you should provide the school with at least one but preferably two in case a second dose is needed. Epinephrine auto-injectors have a shelf life of 1 year, so be sure to check the expiration date on the auto-injector before giving it to the school.
Depending on your child’s circumstances, you may need to provide the school with other types of medications such as antihistamines and/or asthma inhalers.