Preparing Kids with Food Allergies for School

It’s can be challenging to manage food allergies in schools or daycare centers because parents have limited control over what foods other children may bring in. Now that classes are in session, moms and dads need to take precautions so a child with food allergies won’t accidentally eat the wrong thing at school or daycare.

The top priorities to protect kids with food allergies when they go to school are:

  1. making sure an auto-injectable epinephrine device is available; and
  2. explaining the child’s allergy to the teacher.

Use an Auto-Injectable for Allergic Reactions

For a severe or life-threatening allergic reaction (anaphylaxis), first administer epinephrine from an auto-injectable device (like Epi-pen or Auvi-Q), then call 911 for medical attention. Symptoms of an allergic reaction include hives, wheezing, fainting, difficulty breathing, passing out or changes in blood pressure.

Since each school has different procedures for auto-injectable devices, speak to an administrator or check the school’s Web site to determine the exact process for handling students’ allergic reactions. Also ask about the process for school trips and other times when your child is not in the school building to make sure that appropriate food and an Epi-pen or Auvi-Q are available.

Explaining Food Allergies

Ask your child’s doctor for a list of exactly what foods cause an allergic reaction, then give the teacher a copy of the list. If the child has an allergic reaction, the teacher must notify the school nurse immediately.

Since an allergen might be an ingredient of other food products, teachers must check the ingredient labels prior to giving your child any food. If in doubt, the teacher should not give the food to the child.

Teachers should inform parents in advance about birthday parties and social events, so parents can provide a safe snack and the student doesn’t eat food with unknown ingredients.

Students should not share food. Classmates need to be told that doing so can make someone sick and to ask a teacher before sharing food.

Children with food allergies—and grown-ups, too—can find help at the Rodolitz Center for Food Allergy; call 516-622-5070. The center is part of the Allergy and Immunology Division at Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York.

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