Back- to-school time is exciting but for the parent dealing with food allergies, elementary school or any new school can be scary to contemplate. After all, you'll be dropping your child off at school with the knowledge that they will be around food and situations that may pose risks. I've found that early communication and check-ins throughout the year help to minimize those risks and situations.
If you keep open communication with the school and stay on top of things like parties, you will be one step closer to ensuring a safe and enjoyable school year for you, your child, the teacher and everyone in the class.
Late summer is a good time to get started -- for those of you who begin school in mid-August, you'll obviously want to get in touch sometime in July. If your school office is currently closed, try setting up meetings via e-mail for later in the summer. The important thing is to make contact early so that you can iron out details before the first day of school.
Here are a few things to do well before school begins:
•Schedule any doctor's appointments and have your allergist complete important paperwork such as Food Allergy Action Plans, notes and other medical documents that you need for the school nurse (such as an Individual Health Plan (IHP) or a 504 Plan. Make sure to include recent photo of your child (such as a school portrait) that can be glued/taped onto their emergency plan. FARE has Food Allergy Emergency Action Plans on their web site. Click this link and scroll down: you'll find many school resources here.
•Schedule a meeting with the principal and district nurse to take place before school begins. Many schools offer these meetings for parents to discuss everything at one time. This meeting would also be a time to discuss things like peanut-free tables or restricting certain foods in the classroom. You will usually need a doctor's note to back this up attesting to the severity of your child's allergies, so be ready with any documentation about reactions or allergy tests.
• Review your current epinephrine auto injector prescriptions and renew them if necessary. Have at least TWO auto injectors for school--one for the health office and one for your child's classroom.
•Make sure your child has a Medical ID bracelet (or other medical ID jewelry)such as you'll find at MedicAlert (www.medicalert.org) or Allermates. If your child feels fashionable, her or she will be more excited about wearing this important item.
•Stock up on lunch gear for all those packed lunches you'll be making. I love all of the eco-friendly (and cost-saving) reusable lunch container choices out there right now. The "bento style" lunch containers look cool for kids plus they keep your costs down--no more buying disposable bags. Check Target, Whole Foods and online at places like Lunch Bots.