Understanding Food Allergy Issues And Your Child's School

The first day of school can be worrisome for parents of kids with food allergies. Understanding the steps available to you for protecting your child will help you to develop an action plan that is relevant, enforceable, and comprehensive for your child's issues. Here are some tips to help you ensure that your child is safe at school.

Call The School

The first step when you get a food allergy diagnosis is to call the school. Ask for a meeting with the school administrators and the nurse. If your child's school doesn't have a full-time on-site nurse, you can work with an advocate to make a medical case for expanding the position.

Get written documentation from your child's doctor and deliver a copy of that documentation to the school. Along with that document, include a written letter explaining the accommodations required to manage the allergy and ask for a 504 plan. The 504 plan is necessary for defining the steps that must be taken to manage your child's allergy at school. Whenever possible, have a copy delivered to the principal, the school nurse, and the school's district office. Ask for delivery confirmation so you have a record of their receipt.

When you call the school, you should also ask for a meeting with the food services director. He or she will be the one responsible for managing all of the meals provided to the students. Ask the director about how the school is managing school lunches for children who have food allergies. Ask about what kind of training the staff of the school kitchen receives in proper cross-contamination avoidance.

You may even want to ask the food services director about setting up a separate preparation area for your child's lunches so that there is a safe zone established. You may also have to fill out a dietary needs request for the district.

Talk With The Teacher

Especially for young children, food is a central part of many classroom activities and events. This can include holiday parties, birthday celebrations, and more. Talk with your child's teacher about the allergy that your child was diagnosed with and ask about what kinds of measures the teacher will be taking to prevent exposure. You may want to volunteer to bring in allergen-friendly foods for events like this to ensure that he or she has something safe to eat during the events.

Inform Your Child

Even early elementary students are old enough to understand the severity of food allergies and the importance of avoiding those allergens. Take time to talk with your child about the allergy diagnosis and teach food label reading. You'll also want to stress the importance of not trading food at lunch or snack times without knowing exactly what is in the food received. Finally, make sure you teach your child how to administer epinephrine in case of exposure. Your child's allergist may have other recommendations as well.

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