« Are my kids "normal"? Please don't do that to your child. | Main | Social Time with Child Food Allergies »

August 27, 2005

Food Allergy School Jitters

It’s back to school with food allergies. As parents of children with food allergies, the back to school jitters are a bit different! The following are some things I’ve found to be helpful in the whole process.

I always contact our school the week before school begins. I explain that my daughter has a potentially life-threatening food allergy and that I need to meet with both the school nurse and her teacher before the first day of school. I allow the school staff to set up the meeting because I know that they are so busy getting ready. I want them to know I respect their time and I try to keep the meeting to about 20 minutes. Showing respect for the staff’s time really helps the relationship and their willingness to go the “extra mile” for my daughter.

This is what I bring with me to my first meeting with the teacher - in addition to my daughter:

• Written outline of the meeting. (I am a very visual person and this helps me cover everything I want to and based on feedback, it helps the teachers too.)

• Written medical forms completed and signed by my allergist allowing the Epi-pen to be available and administered when needed.

• Many copies of a one-page flyer we created with our daughter’s picture, her allergies, signs of a reaction and very simple instructions on what to do in case of an emergency.

• Two Epi-pens each labeled separately with a sticker from the pharmacy. One is in a Ziplock baggie with a picture of my daughter to be hung by the classroom door and the other is for the nurse’s office (which is adjacent to the front office and close to the eating area).

• An Epi-pen trainer. Also, a few expired Epi-pens and an orange for the teacher and/or nurse to practice with.

• A snack bag, which is a Ziplock baggie with my daughter’s name clearly marked, filled with non-perishable favorite treats.

• Videos for staff and/or children. The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network has great videos available for teaching. There is one for children titled Alexander, the Elephant Who Couldn’t Eat Peanuts. They also have videos available for older children and teachers. I definitely recommend checking these out!

• Other books or written material. The book No Nuts for Me is excellent! It’s my favorite book written for kids about food allergies and Epi-pens. You can find an interactive version on line at Food Allergy Initiative.

• Within the first month of school, I also give the teacher, nurse, head lunch aid and anybody else who has done extra to create a safe environment a small token of my appreciation (i.e., flowers, note cards, Starbucks gift cards).

This list is yet again revised based on my back-to-school experience this year. This approach has worked so well for me. If you have comments or other suggestions, I’d love to hear from you! Food allergy management is an ongoing learning process for me and I welcome input from other parents. I am always eager to learn something new that might make the road a bit smoother for everyone!

Posted by Ann Marie at August 27, 2005 4:12 PM