Sending Your Child With Food Allergies Back To School AND…

The school is finally reopening with some in-person teaching for all children from kindergarten to grade 8.  This can be an exciting and stressful time for both children and parents. This year brings a new challenge: schools will have new rules with enhanced health and safety protocols. If you have a child with food allergies, you have one more big challenge: you need to keep your child safe. Here are some tips to consider:

How to keep your child with food allergies safe at school:

  1. Make sure your child knows the basics. Wash the hands well  before and after eating. Only eating food from home is approved by an adult, and do not share spoons, forks or bottles with other children. The child has to inform an adult as soon as possible if they accidentally eat something they are allergic to and if they develop any symptoms.
  2. Children with food allergies may feel more comfortable to meet their teachers and get familiar with the classroom the first day of school. Parents could arrange to get involved in various school activities. This way, parents can spend more time with their children, and also help educate the staff about food allergies. 
  3. Make the meals an enjoyable time, both at school and at home. Allow your child to decorate the plate. Only two cherry tomatoes and a slice of bell pepper are needed to make a smiley on the salad. 
  4. Older children tend to be more self- aware, and more likely to feel anxious about having food allergies. Parents should be open to communicate  with them, educate them by  reading together food labels from grocery stores or restaurant menus. Getting some help from a child psychologist could provide many benefits, considering the additional stress brought by the COVID-19 pandemic. It is important for children that food allergies can be serious, but they are rarely deadly. It is very important to be cautious, but there is no need to be anxious and fearful. 

How to keep the teachers and school staff informed about food allergies:

  1. Find out who is responsible for the allergy policy at school. If the school doesn’t have a clear policy, you have the opportunity as a parent to get involved and create a clear policy and guidelines to manage food allergies. 
  2. The Anaphylaxis Emergency Plan of your child should be updated in case there are new food allergies, or if past allergies are outgrown. The emergency plan must include what to do in case an allergic reaction develops, along with emergency contact information. Autoinjectors (make sure they are not expired), along with permission to treat the child as per the physician’s instructions should also be included. 
  3. The teacher should have safe, non-perishable snacks available in case children receive treats at school. 

COVID-19 anxiety syndrome 

Be aware that a new form of anxiety is emerging, as restrictions ease in various locations across the globe, and people are trying to adjust to the “new” normal. This form of anxiety affects people of all ages. Labeled  COVID-19 anxiety syndrome by scientists, this condition is characterized by the inability to leave the house due to fear related to COVID-19. An individual may frequently check for symptoms, constantly read the news and avoid other people or social gatherings. 

Notice if your child is trying to avoid going to school or playing outside with friends or has excessive fears of getting the infection. Reassure your child, encourage the use of hand sanitizer and disposable masks to help ease anxiety. Try to maintain a calm, relaxed environment at home and limit exposure to news. 

The Food Allergy Institute