16 Aug 2011

Back to School (or Nursery) with an Allergy

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Starting school or nursery can be an anxious time for families who have children with food allergies.

Here are some top tips to help reduce the risk of your child having an allergic reaction, and to keep the new school term as stress-free as possible.

Firstly, before starting school/nursery make sure you discuss your child’s allergy with the staff (preferably a manager) and highlight any perceived high risk times eg Christmas, birthdays, trips out etc. It always helps to bring a letter from your GP, dietitian, allergy nurse or other health professional to clarify the allergy and foods to avoid. A Management Plan can then be developed to minimise risks and documents a strategic plan for worst-case scenarios. If your child suffers from anaphylaxis reactions (severe, IgE type reaction), your doctor or allergy nurse should provide the school with an Action Plan and medical kit with epipen for emergencies. Include phone numbers/contacts for emergenices, and make sure the medical kit is stored out of direct sunlight. Make sure the staff are trained in administering the epipen. Most allergy nurses will be happy to visit nurseries and schools and provide staff training.

Make sure you get a copy of the school/nursery menu and ask staff about how the children eat snacks and food – is it at tables, on the floor, small groups, and how are they supervised? Will your child need one:one supervision? Is the food served ‘buffet’ style where everyone can help themselves, and thus increase the risk of contamination? It is usually helpful for you to bring in a comprehensive list of ingredients to avoid and those allowed – I have heard of children with milk allergies be refused any puddings in case they contained milk, so were only ever given fruit! If you are sending in your child’s food, make sure everything is clearly labeled – get a load of stickers made up in advance and stick them on everything!

Ask about trips out, special events and activities that may involve food. How do staff intend to supervise your child and how will they ensure that visitors to the school know about safe foods your child can eat. Can you send in ‘safe’ food that your child can eat during special occasions? I know of one mum who sends in wheat-free cupcakes that are kept in the nursery freezer and defrosted when needed.

Don’t forget to keep staff informed about any changes or updated allergy tests that may occur during the year. It helps if everything discussed is also written down – just to be on the safe side!

Finally, I have come across an excellent resource for children with allergies – t-shirts, stickers, badges and epipen totes that are really handy for sending in to nursery/school Have a look at: http://www.alwaysreadthelabel.info

Good luck!

 

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