Monday, August 16, 2010

Back to School: Get Busy, Get Prepared

The school year is quickly approaching. In fact, I have heard that some districts have already started up. If you have food allergies in your family it is a good idea to prepare yourself, your child and your school for the upcoming year. Here are a few things to consider as you gear up.

1) Make sure all of those emergency meds are up to date, including Epi Pens and Benadryl. Get a nice, sturdy bag to put them into. I also like to throw in a tube of Cortaid or hydrocortisone. Make sure the bag is well-labeled, including your child's name, their date of birth and your cell phone numbers. If you happen to live in California or another state where there is an emergency disaster plan in place (we have a little thing called earthquakes here in California), make sure you have 2 of these medicine kits. That way one will be in the school office or your child's classroom AND one will be where they store the disaster kits.

2) Make sure your school has all of your up to date contact information, especially if you have moved recently.

3) Fill out a food allergy emergency action plan. Either make one up yourself or use this pdf form created by Kids with Food Allergies.

4) BEFORE school starts, talk to your child's teacher. Educate them about your child's allergies. If possible, give them a typed list of your what foods your child CANNOT eat. Discuss your emergency action plan and give them a copy of the document from #3 (above). All of this is especially important if you are entering preschool, where group snacks are handed out daily. Ask questions about the school's nut policy, if applicable. Are nuts allowed? Peanuts? Tree Nuts? If so, is there a nut free table in place. You and the teacher need to be on the same page with these things. It is also a great idea to talk to all support staff and school administrators.

5) Order labels, if you have not already done so. It is a good idea to have labels made that announce your child's allergy. You can put these labels on everything from clothing (field trips!) to back packs to plastic food containers. These are fabulous and they are water resistant and dishwasher safe...

6) Order medical alert bracelets if you do not already have some. There are several companies that sell them on the internet but here are a few links if you need to start looking...

7) At back to school night or any parent orientation, take a deep breath and introduce yourself! Inform the other parents about your child's situation. Help them understand how critical food safety is for your child. Tell them specifically what will happen if your child eats something that they are not supposed to. Answer questions. Encourage them to e-mail or call you at any time. Make THEM feel comfortable. You never know how people will react to the news. I have found that most parents are willing to work with you and are even sympathetic. It has always been important for me to communicate that I am willing to go the extra distance to make sure my child is NOT excluded. During birthday season, this can be a problem when everyone is bringing treats to school. They can still bring in stuff that their kid likes, just ask them to alert you in case you need to bring in an alternate for your child to enjoy. If you show people that you are not making this THEIR problem, they are more than likely to help you out. If someone gives you a hard time or if there are issues with other parents, please discuss with school administrators. You need to feel as comfortable as possible when you drop your child off at school. And it helps to have as many people as possible know what COULD happen if your child were to consume an allergen.

8) Check out this well-thought-out guide...

Personal Note: I do not get any kick backs from the products and companies that I mentioned. I am just using their websites to get you going. There are a ton of other fabulous companies out there to make your life a little easier. If you happen to have something local to your area, I would suggest using them. Good luck!


Anonymous said...

Great list!. I do most of these things. My daughter has been in the same school for 4 years now and she's going into 2nd grade. We have a very good relationship with the school nurse. They have a peanut/nut free policy in place. They do allow birthday celebrations. I've asked the teacher to give me some notice and then I send in a treat and that usually works. But sometimes, actitivies with treats happen last minute. So, I leave a bag in the class that has safe treats and she can just take what she wants from there.

We don't find out the teacher until the first day. But so far, they have been very good and also the nurse, notifies each teacher of any kids in the class with allergies or other medical issues.

Even though, we've had it pretty good at school, I still worry after drop off.

I can't believe it's already just a few weeks away.


Jane Anne said...

This is such a fantastic list. Honestly, #7 spoke to me the most. Sometimes I feel like I want to hide (yes, I'm the one with the allergic child). I don't really hide- I mean, I work with the teachers and principal and make sure the school is safe- but I don't always want to volunteer it to parents. I have no idea why it makes me nervous. I appreciate the new perspective- "make them feel comfortable"- that's great advice! Thanks for the encouragement.