Think 5: Back to School Food Allergy Tips
By Sally Schoessler, RN
“Let’s see … Backpack … Folders … Pens and pencils … Two epinephrine auto-injectors … Doctor forms …”
It’s back to school time for parents and children around the country. (Some school districts have already started!) When getting yourself and your food-allergic child ready to start the school year, THINK “5”:
- Check in with your healthcare provider.
Late summer or early September is the best time to visit your doctor to be sure your child’s care is on track. Talk about concerns you may have and include your child in the discussion about food allergy management. The goal is to encourage children to self-manage – at an age-appropriate level – and learn when and how to get help if an exposure occurs.
- Complete medical forms and have medications ready.
What healthcare forms does the school need from you? Some may require medication orders and a doctor-signed form of your child’s allergy diagnosis to provide food substitutions in the cafeteria.
When you take your epinephrine auto-injector prescription to the pharmacist, ask about co-pay programs for discounts. Explain the prescription is for back to school and ask for an expiration date as far in the future as possible.
- Meet with your school nurse.
Working together, you and the school nurse can partner on creating an allergy-aware environment at school. The school nurse can help you determine what food allergy accommodations are reasonable and necessary for your child, lead in the development of emergency care plans, and educate staff.
- Open lines of communication with teachers and staff.
What do you want school staff to know about how you manage your child’s food allergy? What does your child want them to know? Involve your child in building relationships with teachers. Discuss how to share information without publicly singling out your child.
- Enjoy the first days of school.
When things are in place for your child, it reduces anxiety that can come with a new school year. When you communicate confidence, your child can learn to follow practical management strategies and feel safe at school.
Sally Schoessler, RN, is Allergy & Asthma Network’s Director of Education.