Back to School With Allergies
Back to school season can be both wonderful and stressful, and allergies add an additional layer of concern to the mix. Today, Tracy shares some great resources for families; useful to check out if your child has allergies, or in the likely case that one of your child’s peers does:
“It’s that time of year again…back to school. This is a time filled with anticipation both positive and negative. Parents are busy trying to make sure everyone has the necessary clothes, gear, and supplies. Kids are looking forward to new challenges, new faces, and most years, a new teacher. Anxiety can be problematic at this time of year, too, as children wonder if they’ll do well this year, if they’ll like their new teacher, etc.
For kids with food allergy, add one more anxiety to the list. Back to school can be a time of pressing worry; while parents ensure that the necessary (and often life-saving) protocols are in place for their child. Food allergic kids have to get used to the school routine for avoidance of allergens. This can include sitting at a special desk or table in the lunchroom, learning to manage allergies on his or her own (e.g., at a bake sale), and carrying an Epi-Pen by themselves. In some regions, set protocols are in place (such as Ontario, Canada, where Sabrina’s Law makes it mandatory for all schools and daycares to have anaphylaxis policies in place).
For our family, and our son with multiple food allergies, many firsts are happening this year. Gabriel is going into 1st grade! This means that he’ll eat in the school gym with everyone else. Our school is small, so kids usually just eat on the floor. Gabe will have his own desk, with his Wrap-N-Mat (found here via One Chic Mama!). The school has decided not to sell milk in its lunch program, and I have requested that parents not bring baked goods to celebrate birthdays, etc.
For the first time also, Gabe will carry his Epi-Pen in a pack around his waist. This is a huge responsibility for a 6-year-old, and I’m proud that he’s feeling up to the challenge.
Here are a few invaluable web resources for you to check out to prepare your family for a new school year. Whether your children have allergies or not, there is likely to be a peer in their classes at some point who does; it’s good to know how to help keep them safe.
1. My favorite website is www.gosafe.ca. This website includes a kid’s section with a trivia game to test your food-allergic tyke’s knowledge about how to stay safe. It also emphasizes the role that the larger community has in keeping kids safe with its SAFE program (Supporting Allergic Friends Everywhere). After all, it takes a village…
2. Another good site is www.foodallergy.org. This is the official site of the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network. This site is chock-full of information on the top 6 allergens, as well as programs that parent-teacher associations may want to implement in the absence of legislation requiring them to do so. The most valuable thing I found on this site was a list of the ways that a child might describe an allergic reaction. I have given a copy to all of Gabriel’s caregivers, so that they will know what to ask him.
3. www.medicalert.com or .ca is also a great resource. I advocate strongly for kids with anaphylaxis or severe asthma to wear a Medic Alert bracelet.
4. www.allergicliving.com is a great resource for information on all types of allergies, and they cover the most current issues facing people with food allergies. This is the website to accompany their magazine, and often includes recipes and tips on how to pack an allergy friendly lunch for your youngster.
Included on most of these websites are the usual tips and hints that can keep everyone safe. Hand washing routines (before and after eating… for everyone) goes a long way in helping reduce the chance of exposure for a food allergic kid. It is often difficult for parents of kids who don’t have food allergy to appreciate the huge challenge that faces the parents of kids that have them. Awareness if the biggest weapon we have against harm coming to our kids.”