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Steps to Managing Food Allergies in School

According to the CDC, food allergies affect 1 in 13 children. Although children can be allergic to many things, the 8 most common food allergies are milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, wheat, soy, peanuts, and tree nuts. Sending a child off to school with a food allergy can be scary, so it’s important to take the proper precautions to ensure your child’s safety.

Prior to the school year beginning, be sure to sit down with the nurse, or medical staff, to create an Individual Health Plan. This plan will outline the student’s needs and discuss a medical plan, which may include how medicine will be administered, where medicine will be stored, and details about what should happen during an emergency. Unlike an IEP or 504, the Individual Health Plan doesn’t typically discuss learning or development concerns. The Individual Health Plan should be reviewed and kept up to date. 

While creating the Individual Health Plan, it can be important to ask the following questions:

  • What are the cleaning protocols in regards to snack/lunch/field trips?
  • Where will medicine be stored?
  • Can my child carry an epi-pen?
  • What’s the procedure if an allergic reaction takes place?
  • Who will be trained to administer the medication?
  • What will happen if the medicine must be administered?

In addition to the Individual Health Plan, it’s important that the school staff and your child understand the proper protocols. Here are some important points to discuss with your child’s teacher: 

  • Where will the students be eating snack/lunch?
  • Do you use food as a reward? Is it possible to use other classroom rewards?
  • Do the students wash their hands before/after eating?
  • Are the tables wiped down prior to/after eating?
  • Is food used in classroom projects? 
  • How do you handle food for class parties and field trips?

It’s also important to have clear and honest conversations with your child. Here are some things to discuss with your child: 

  • Do you understand the signs of an allergic reaction?
  • Do you know what to do if you feel like you’re having an allergic reaction?
  • Remember to wash your hands before/after eating.
  • Remember to wipe down the area before/after eating.
  • Remember not to put your hands in your mouth throughout the day.
  • Remember not to share food with others. 

These conversations can be very helpful in making sure that everyone feels safe and confident about attending school, and knowing what to do in case of an emergency. Even if your child doesn’t have a food allergy, it can be a good idea to discuss safe food practices, such as washing your hands before/after you eat and not sharing food with others. These small steps can help make sure everyone in the classroom is safe from allergic reactions. 

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