The realization that your child will be away from you for most of the day is a tough transition point for many parents, but it can be even more anxiety provoking if your child has food allergies. Even if you are preparing and sending their food with them, it can be difficult to control what they might be around and what they may unknowingly grab and put in their mouths. However you can rest easier knowing you have taken the following steps toward keeping your child safe:
1. Make sure your child’s teachers and care providers know about your child’s allergies. This seems obvious, but I’ve met with many parents who haven’t notified a child’s teacher about their allergies because they feel comfortable that the child knows what not to eat. However children are not always aware what allergens may be in certain foods and even if they are aware, let’s just say that children are not always the best decision-makers. Especially if they really want taste their best friend’s homemade cookies that have just a few walnuts.
2. Make sure your children are aware of what foods they are allergic to and the less obvious ingredients that contain the food they are allergic to. For example, if a child is allergic to egg they may not be aware that tasting a friend’s sandwich with mayonnaise may not be safe. They also may not be aware that those cupcakes that a classmate brought to school to celebrate their birthday likely has egg in them.
3. Obtain allergy and medications forms from your school or child care provider that can be completed by your child’s allergist or pediatrician. These forms are vital part of keeping everyone informed as well as ensuring that your child will have access to the medications that they may need in case of an emergency, such as Benadryl and epinephrine. These forms should include an anaphylaxis plan. These plans are important not just for the purposes of the school or childcare provider, but also for you to keep a copy at home for other family members to be aware of.
4. If your child is old enough, teach them how to use their epinephrine auto-injector. Oh, by the way, make sure you know how use it as well. All auto-injectors are not the same. Many come with a trainer so that you can practice before you actually need to use it. If you are not sure how to use it, you may bring it to your child’s doctor or pharmacist who can demonstrate how to use your child’s particular device. There are also some helpful videos online for most of the types of available auto-injectors. Trust me, you do not want to add to the stress of a severe allergic reaction the difficulty of trying to figure out how to give your child their life-saving medications.
5. Check the expiration dates on the auto-injectors and make sure they will not expire before the end of the school year or set a reminder to replace them. Most auto-injections have expiration dates that should last for at least 12 months from the date of purchase. However it depends on how long your pharmacy has kept the device on their shelves before you received it.
Nothing about navigating food allergy is foolproof, but following these tips should get you on the right track.