Expert Health Articles

Back to School with Food Allergies

Amber Patterson, MDAmber Patterson, MD

Nationwide Children’s Hospital an affiliate of Blanchard Valley Health System

ENT & Allergy Specialists of Northwest Ohio

Preparing to go back to school can be filled with mixed emotions for parents of a child with a food allergy. This can be particularly anxiety-provoking for parents of kindergarteners or those attending a new school. Becoming familiar with the school’s food allergy policies and speaking with the school nurse can help set your mind at ease.

Communication with the school is key. Notify the school of your child’s allergy, and provide a food allergy action plan. This plan should outline your child’s allergies, when to treat a reaction, which medication(s) to use and emergency contacts. It is generally signed by your child’s allergist.

Educate your child on how to self-manage their allergies, appropriate to their level of understanding. This includes knowing what they are allergic to and knowing to tell an adult if they think an accidental ingestion has occurred. Discourage food sharing or eating anything with a known allergen or unknown ingredients. Consider a medic alert bracelet for your child to help remind others of the allergy.

Ensure life-saving medication will be easily available when needed. Also be aware of the procedure for administering medication at school, and ensure adequate staff training. Most schools are now authorized to stock epinephrine for use on any child with a life-threatening allergic reaction, but legislation varies by state. Regardless of your school’s policy, it is best to provide epinephrine auto injectors prescribed specifically for your child. If old enough to self-administer, provide written notice, allowing your child to carry their medications with them.

Ask for the schools food allergy policies regarding classroom snacks, lunch tables and food bullying. The decision about whether or not to have your child at a special lunch table for those with food allergies is a very personal decision and should be based on your family’s comfort level.

Regular communication with your child and the school can aid in successful food avoidance throughout the school year.