Set Up a Meeting at the School
When your child has serious allergies, work with her school. Meet with the principal, her teachers, and the clinic staff. Find out if the school already has a policy to deal with food or other allergies. Then, make a plan to help her avoid triggers while still being able to fully take part. Don’t forget after-school programs and the school bus.
Develop an Anaphylaxis Action Plan
In an allergy emergency, seconds count. Every child with prescribed epinephrine should have an emergency plan. Make one with your child’s doctor and the school nurse. It should have your child’s photo, specific allergy warning signs and symptoms, and treatment instructions. Put copies in your child’s classroom, the office, and the cafeteria.
Supply the School With Medication
Epinephrine should be with your child at school -- not locked up or refrigerated. It should be passed between staff wherever she goes unless she’s old enough to carry it. Explain doctor instructions, which may include injecting at the first signs of anaphylaxis. Caution that they should not wait, even if it is unclear that the symptoms are allergy related. Your doctor may suggest that your child carry two doses. Check expiration dates often.
Talk to Your Child About Allergies
Go over your child’s triggers with her. For food allergies, tell her not to share food, utensils, or containers, and to wash her hands before and after eating. For insect sting allergies, teach her to wear long sleeves, pants, and shoes outside and eat inside when she can. If outside, use a straw. Then she can’t swallow a bee if it is in her drink.
Teach Warning Signs
Children and school staff (even substitute teachers and lunch monitors) should know to watch for these warning signs:
- Hives and itching, pale or flushed skin
- Swollen throat or tongue
- Wheezing, trouble breathing or swallowing
- Dizziness or fainting, or rapid or weak pulse
- Vomiting, diarrhea, or stomach cramps
Make a Response Plan
School staff should not expect your child to give herself an epinephrine shot during a reaction, even if she knows how. Your doctor will make an emergency response plan for staff to follow. It will tell them how and when to give epinephrine, call 911, and start emergency first aid.
Expose Hidden Severe Allergy Dangers
Ask your child's teacher to avoid using triggers in lesson plans, crafts projects, and cooking classes. Some iffy items include:
- Tempera paints that have eggs
- Clay or dough made with peanut butter
- Icing made from egg whites
Work for Sting Prevention
Preventing insect stings can be hard. But your child's school can take these helpful steps:
- Remove insect nests on or near school grounds
- Store garbage in covered containers away from where students play or line up for school
- Have at-risk students eat inside, at least during sting season
Give Your Child a Medical ID Bracelet
A medical alert bracelet reminds school staff during an emergency that your child needs epinephrine. It also gives paramedics a special number to get important information quickly. Bracelets designed for kids can feature beads or cartoon characters.
Should You Bag Cafeteria Lunches?
If you’re sure your child won’t swap food, packing a lunch is OK. But schools must make meals for kids with special diet needs at no extra cost. Food staff should know your child’s food triggers and the technical and scientific names for those foods to help them when reading packages. Surfaces and utensils should be washed to avoid cross contact.
Limiting contact with triggers can be done in a way that doesn't make kids with food allergies feel alone. If your child is allergic to nuts, for example, work with school staff to:
- Have a special lunch table where anyone can sit whose lunch is nut-free
- Make school-wide rules not to trade food or share utensils or straws
- Create a nut-free snack policy in the classroom
Help the School Help Your Child
By volunteering at school, you can help teachers watch what's going on. Be involved in planning and going on field trips and class parties. Write a letter that the teacher can send to other class parents to let them know about your child’s allergy. Offer to provide kid-friendly allergy info for classmates.