Starting school this year – and your child has allergies…
This week, many parents have confirmation of their child’s school place for the start of school in September. As a parent with your child starting school for the first time, this can be a stressful event – as much for you as them. Will they cope being away from you, will they make friends easily, will they be happy?
For the many parents whose children suffer with allergies, alongside those worries, they have other worries too. Both the parents and child need to be confident that their allergies will be managed effectively.
Does your child have Allergies
Top Tips – Allergy Management
- Make an appointment to talk to the head teacher, or your child’s class teacher before the term begins.
Supply them with detailed information about your child’s allergy, along with a management plan of your child’s needs -your practice doctor or nurse can help you complete this plan.
The plan should detail signs and symptoms to watch for, alerting school staff to a suspected allergic reaction; the procedure to follow in an emergency, along with details of any medication that could be given.
The management plan and medication should be kept in a place all staff are aware of and should be accessible at all times.
If required, you may need a letter from your doctor confirming your child’s allergy, and also you may have to give your signed permission for school staff to administer medication.
A child with allergies often has other things to consider at lunchtime or if having to receive medication. Talk to the staff about finding ways for this to be done in the least disruptive way, so that your child doesn’t feel awkward, or singled out compared to the rest of their class.
Provide a list of all correct, current telephone numbers and if for any reason you are unobtainable, alternative contacts.
- If your child carries an EpiPen, or the school keeps one for them, ensure you and the school are aware of the expiry dates. Also discuss with staff the provision for access to the auto injector if the class go off-site for swimming or other sports activities.
- At infant school, because the children remain in the same class, it should be easier for the teacher to control exposure to the allergens that your child reacts to. For example, in arts and crafts when making models from old food boxes and cartons, they may contain traces of foods that your child is allergic to. Play-dough can also be a problem for children with certain allergies. With careful planning by the teacher, any problems can be pre-empted.
Likewise, if the classroom has a nature table, or a pet’s corner, ask the teacher if some alternative activities could be provided where your child can take part safely, without feeling left out.
When exploring food preparation, or foods from different cultures, there are often samples for the class to try. Again, ensure the teachers know what has been used in the recipe.
- Lunchtimes can be a nightmare, but if the school has a no-food-sharing policy, life is much easier. If all children know they must only eat their own food, and not offer to share with a friend, it is much safer.
Before your child starts school, talk to the headteacher and ask them to put you in touch with the catering company who supply lunches. If they are willing to work with you, and know well in advance, they should be able to provide safe meals for your child. The other alternative is for them to take their own packed lunch.
Share the management plan with the caterers, and make sure they have your contact number if they ever want further information.
It is worth asking about seating arrangements at lunchtimes, you don’t want your child to be sat alone.
If you know that class birthdays are celebrated by children taking in cake, organise with the class teacher for your child to have a tin of ‘celebration’ goodies they can eat on those occasions. If you know in advance when cake will be eaten, you can provide their own cake too.
- Explain to the rest of the class about allergies. Circle-time is the perfect occasion for this to happen, where either the child themselves, or the class teacher, or even you as a parent, could explain how they rest of the class can help your child deal with their allergy. It is important for them to understand about allergies, and feel involved in helping their fellow classmate.
If your child has access to a smart phone, introduce them to the Teal App, an app which can alert the emergency services in the event that they have an allergy. Find out more here
Our blog last September, talked about some of the issues of taking packed lunches: ‘It’s back to school!’
Also, Julianne, our CEO shared her experience of her school lunchtimes, and what was in her lunchboxes in, ‘My school lunchbox – what’s in yours?’
For help about how to complete a management plan: