Having a child starting school with severe allergies can be stressful and daunting.
While every effort can be made to minimise the risk and keep your child's environment safe, ultimately it is your child's health and they must learn to how to keep themselves safe. I've put together 20 helpful tips that will assist you in the transition of this life changing event.
the school about your child's allergy as soon as you can. Be clear about
which foods or other allergens may trigger an anaphylactic reaction.
the school with an Anaphylaxis Action Plan, signed from your treating doctor. This is an individual management plan detailing the diagnosis, medication (adrenaline/antihistamine etc.), contact details and step by step procedure in the case of an emergency. There is also room to attach a recent passport sized photo of your child. Also provide a trainer epipen for staff to practise with.
*Tip - take a recent photo of your child in their school uniform - without a hat on. This will enable teachers/carers to recognise your child easier, if an emergency were to happen.
all required medication ensuring that it is clearly labelled, stored correctly and
* Tip - ensure your Epipen is kept up to date, join the free reminder service that Epiclub offers. They will send you a message (text or email) when your epipen is nearing expiration date. You can register more than one and you can also individually name them so you know exactly which one is about to expire e.g.. one of ours is named 'black racing car' To register for free - Click Here
It is recommended that an adrenaline auto-injector (Epipen/ Anapen) travels with your child at all times. A second adrenaline case should also be stored in the school office clearly labelled and NOT under lock and key. If medication is normally stored in a locked cabinet, request that your child's adrenaline isn't - even if you have to request by writing. Adrenaline needs to be accessed immediately if an emergency occurs.
|Loves his racing car epipen case|
There are plenty of fantastic pouches available, for some ideas - Click Here.
Recent blog posts with other allergy awareness options...
4. Make an appointment with your child's teacher or principal to enquire about any other potential risks for your child. Discuss potential risks such as food allergens during cooking classes, craft lesson, school excursions, treat boxes, end of year muck up day (egg throwing), cake stalls, substitute teachers, any scenario possible that you can think of. With the help of staff develop a risk assessment plan outlining strategies to be implemented for each risk.
Try to cover every scenario, an emergency may never happen but it is reassuring there is a strategy in place in case it does. Even then, you will probably have situations arise that weren't covered such as a child vomiting over a school bag- yep, lovely I know but it's a risk that is overlooked by many - and it happened to us. To read more - Click Here
teachers and other staff are aware of prevention strategies and ensure the strategies are
implemented. Plan ahead for special events such as excursions,
sports days and parties. Also ensure that all relief teachers will know the correct protocol to follow.
We had a close call when a relief teacher offered unsafe lollies to my boy as a reward for being good. To read what happened - Click Here
6. Ensure appropriate staff
members are trained and confident to administer medications. Provide an adrenaline training pen. Keep all expired epipens (adrenaline auto- injectors) and at the beginning of each school year, allow your child's new teacher to use one into an orange or apple. This will help to dispel any apprehension or fear that the teacher may have about using the device. Should an emergency arise they will be more confident to use one.
your child from a young age not to accept food or drink from others. Provide a lunchbox that is
clearly labelled and remind them not to trade food or drink with friends. School bubblers may be a source of possible risk of allergic cross contamination. If your child must drink from the bubblers, teach them let the water run first before drinking. Also teach them not to place their mouth over bubbler. It's always best to encourage them to only drink from their water bottle.
prepared for providing safe food treats for your child. Many parents send in birthday cakes for their children throughout the year. Perhaps ask your teacher to send a note home to parents asking for some warning when this will happen so you can be prepared. Most schools will allow you to store
some baked treats in the canteen or staffroom freezer so your child can join in with
Some teachers have reward treats for students as an incentive. Provide some allergy friendly treats for your child to the teacher so they are included. Better still ask your child's teacher to provide non-food treats to all children. Not only will it minimise risk for your food allergic child but it will also help to disassociate 'treat' food as a reward. We need to ask what kind of message this is sending to our children.
As a society we really need to look after our kids, there are far too many kids developing conditions like Type II Diabetes and obesity. Why do we set our kids up by rewarding good behaviour with 'treats' that are laden in sugar, artificial additives, preservatives and unsafe chemicals?????
your child to become independent. Remind them to always take their medication
to school and ensure they always bring it home with them. Praise your child when they remember, and offer lots of praise to your child as an incentive if necessary.
If the child is mature enough they will be always wearing their adrenaline anyway. It's a personal choice as to whether your allergic child wears their epipen in the playground or gives it to a teacher. It really depends on how mature the child is and what the parent feels comfortable with.
10. If possible volunteer as a class helper. Teachers are always welcoming helpers to change home readers, help with sight words etc. This provides support for the teacher and will also allow you to oversee how things work. If there is something you're not comfortable with or see a potential danger , discuss with the teacher.
11. Provide school with all up-to-date information required for adequate care for your child. Advise school and teacher of the following and also revise emergency care plan accordingly:
12. Ensure child/teacher carry emergency kit on all excursions, sports days and any other special days. At least 2 epipens should always be within quick reach of the child. Request that a mobile phone is also carried with the medical kit.
13. Get some customised business cards made up so your emergency details are always on hand. Provide to your child's teacher, school office, after school care, bus driver. Also keep in your child's medication kit and epipen pouch. You can be assured your details are easily accessible in case of emergency. Our wonderful kindy teacher also had my card taped to her desk always in view.
It's reassuring that my
details are easily accessed in the case of emergency, the ones
below cost a few cents.
For More Varieties and TO PURCHASE - Click Here
- an anaphylactic reaction
- an at risk situation
- change in child's condition
14. Inform canteen workers of your child's allergy and specific requirements. Have a copy of your child's Anaphylaxis Action Plan with photo on canteen wall with a notice for workers on canteen duty that your child should not be given food or can only be given pre-approved food. - depending on your circumstances
15. Invest in a medical identification bracelet or chain for your child. This will become more important as your child becomes more independent.
16. Join the school P&C If you are able join the parents and citizens group for your child. It's a great way to know what's going on in the school. You can have some input into ways that can help keep your child safe that may otherwise be overlooked. It's also the perfect opportunity to dispel any myths or fears about food allergies that others may have.
17. Educate casual and relief staff . Emergencies usually happen with out of the normal circumstances. Ask the school what the procedure is to educate casual staff about your child's allergy. Discuss with your child's permanent teacher what will happen in the case of casual staff. A copy of the anaphylaxis action plan should be in full view anyway, perhaps a note or laminated card can be in the roll book to bring further attention to your child's allergy.
As previously mentioned. we had a close call when a relief teacher offered unsafe lollies to my boy as a reward for being good. To read what happened - Click Here
18. Organise play dates with friends and parents. Your allergic child is embarking on a new world -without you always being there. As scary as it is for a mum of a child facing life threatening allergies, it's going to happen regardless of how we feel. Best to embrace it. When your child starts making friends at school , take the initiative and organise some play dates with your child's friends and their parents. These kids are probably the same ones who will grow up with your allergic child, and potentially be the ones who will help to look out for their friend. In an age appropriate way start educating them and their parents. Discuss what foods are dangerous for your child and what to do in the case that your child is exposed to a dangerous food. They will know what signs to look for and how to respond. It's a great way to help educate mums who probably have no idea what you face everyday.
A great way to educate kids is through books. My Allergy Friends have some fantastic children's books that can help...
19. Get to know other parents. If you are able to, drop your child off to school and pick them up. These are the times when you can meet and get to know other parents. It's good to know what's going on in the school. You may have opportunity to dispel some myth about food allergies or you could meet your biggest ally in raising awareness. Most parents are great, they want the best for our children. However, there are also those that aren't so great.
From my experience there are 3 kinds of parents in relation to being allergy aware...
- Those that get it and go out of their way to make things safe for your child. There are some unique people put in our path to help lighten our journey. These people are gold. I was blessed to have a handful of amazing parents who were thoughtful and caring. They would check with me if they had anything new to put in their child's lunchbox, they would give adequate warning if they were bringing birthday cakes to school, they were amazing and really helped ease such a big year for us.
- Those that don't quite understand and are a bit stand offish and apprehensive. These people could be lovely people, however, when it comes to severe allergies are ignorant and uneducated. Sometimes they are open to knowing which is great. Fear can stop a lot of people from wanting to understand. Most people are busy and don't want to be know about things that they don't understand or have time for especially when it doesn't affect them..
- Those that just don't care - thankfully these people are few and far between. I have learnt from experience to not give them any of my energy. You will know who they are and it is better to ignore them. Don't allow them to upset you by their attitude and the hurtful insensitive things they may say. You will rarely win them over, so don't waste your time or energy trying to. Be wary of them and never allow them to care for your child. I've learnt this first hand when peanuts were deliberately placed closely within reach of my 5 year old (peanut anaphylactic) son - to see how sensitive he was and whether he would react or not!!! I kidd you not, this happened. Also, be mindful that children of people like this will be raised in an environment supporting this mentality. Teach your child how to make good friends with other children who treat them right.
20. Educate your child - it is their health. I've left this for last because I feel this is the most important. While we can try to cover every potential risk that your child may face starting school, we will never be able to control their environment completely. Ultimately, your child's safety will come down to how we have educated and taught them from the moment they were diagnosed with severe allergies. Use every opportunity you can to teach, not instil fear, but to teach them about their health and how to keep themselves safe. As parents that's out role anyway, allergy parents just have that bit more to do. Remember step by step, day by day, meal by meal.
I hope these tips have helped with making the transition to big school for you and your child a bit easier. It's a huge step for our kids and also for us. The good thing about allergies becoming more prevalent is that more people are becoming aware. I pray the very best for you and your little one starting school. I hope you have some great support from your school, principal, teachers and other parents. It certainly does make it easier if you do.
Good Luck. Let me know how you go. I'm always here to help in any way I can. We also have a nice community online through my Facebook page, so pop on over and join the conversation.
Looking for some lunchbox ideas???
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Labels: Back to school, eating out with food allergies, Keeping safe