Your child’s first day at school brings lots of excitement and a little bit of apprehension for parent and child but if your child has been diagnosed with serious allergies managing the school environment takes extra planning to ensure a child with Anaphylaxis is safe in the care of others.
So what can you do to ensure they are safe within the school system? As a mother of a child with serious food allergies, I found when it comes to food allergies and Anaphylaxis its all about preparation and ensuring others are aware, can recognise and manage an allergic reaction until help arrives.
Top tips for managing allergies at school include
# Meet with your doctor or allergy specialist, they are best placed to know your child’s specific requirements and draw up an allergy management plan to assist the school in recognising your child’s symptoms of an allergic reaction and response to it.
# Meet with the school principal and discuss how they manage allergies in the school. Draw up a school allergy management plan using information provided by your healthcare professional. Include your child’s photo in the allergy management plan and have it displayed clearly in the staff room so that all school staff can recognise your child should an incident occur outside of the classroom. Provide your child’s details, emergency contact information for your doctor, child’s parents and a backup contact in case you can’t be reached. If your child travels to school by bus or carpools ensure the driver or other parents are aware of your child’s allergies and include travel to school in your allergy management plan. Allergy Bracelets are a great way of passing on information in an emergency
# If your child is prescribed medication such as antihistamines and an adrenaline auto-injector, discuss where it is stored, who has access to it and who can administer it? Request Allergy training for staff. Emergency medicine kits should be out of reach of small children but easily accessible and not locked in a press or office.
# Discuss who provides lunch, where do the children eat and are they supervised? If for example, your child has a nut allergy will they make the classroom or school a nut free zone or have a separate allergy-free table. Consider Nut free Zone posters or General Allergy Awareness Posters to remind others. Is there a routine of hand washing and wiping down tables after eating?
# Be aware of potential allergy triggers in soaps, face paints, art and craft materials or bird/animal feed.
# Ensure there is a system in place so that any temporary staff are made aware of your child’s allergies. Placing a laminated emergency care plan on or in the class desk can be a great way of ensuring the information is passed on
# Inclusion of the allergic child in class activities is very important, quite often they can be asked not to eat, wait in a hall or even requested to stay at home which can be very tough on a young child. Chat to the class teacher about the safe inclusion of your child in activities involving food such as pancake Tuesday where the parent may quiet easily provide safe alternatives. Or craft activities where for a child with egg allergies working with egg cartons is not the best idea.
# For activities off the school grounds such as school tours or sporting activities ensure supervising staff are fully confident in the emergency action plan and in the use of adrenaline auto-injectors, and that they have the child’s emergency kit with them, with the child’s emergency action plan, two adrenaline auto-injectors, antihistamine, inhalers or any other emergency medicines prescribed. Staff should have a fully charged mobile phone with them. It’s also a good idea to remind other parents so other children don’t bring unsafe snacks for your child or on the trip.
# Teach your child not to share food, drinks or musical instruments such as tin whistles and recorders from others.
# Explain to them that if they are not feeling well to tell a teacher or other adult immediately and not to go to the bathroom or any other area on their own as Anaphylactic allergies may be life-threatening in a short period of time.
# Ensure other parents are aware there is a child with allergies in the class/school and remind again via the school newsletter at times like sports days, school tours, cake sales, Easter, Halloween or Christmas where extra treats may be brought into the classroom. Provide the school with safe treats or a list of safe treats for special occasions.
# Talk to other parents about birthday parties and your child’s allergies in advance of the party. Consider they may be nervous about having your child or conversely that they may not understand the seriousness of the allergy. Provide a list of safe food that your child will eat or provide the food itself, something similar to what will be given to the other children so your child won’t feel different or excluded.
# Consider a class education day to help other kids understand & support your child. Allergy Books and Kyle Dine DVD’s can be a great way to raise awareness with young kids who can often be great advocates on your child’s behalf.
Other sources of information on the management of allergies at school;
Sample Allergy Action Plans
For anyone managing Anaphylaxis, the following organisations have published Sample Allergy and Anaphylaxis Action Plans
IFAN – Irish Food Allergy Network
Have published a guide which is intended as a guide to help address the care of children with food allergies attending Primary and Secondary Education in Ireland; how to prepare and cater for, include and support them.
Managing Chronic Health Conditions in Schools
Is an invaluable resource pack for schools produced in association with Anaphylaxis Ireland, The Asthma Society of Ireland, Diabetes Ireland and Brainwave. It covers the management of Anaphylaxis and other chronic health conditions in schools. It is available here
Anaphylaxis Campaign Help for Schools
Both the Irish and UK Anaphylaxis Campaign (See useful links) provide lots of useful information and guides to assist parents and schools in managing Anaphylaxis in the school environment.
The UK Campaign’s basic information schools need is covered in the Campaign’s fact sheet Frequently Asked Questions in Schools.
Disclaimer: The information provided is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Allergy Lifestyle Limited (t/a) Allergy Lifestyle) uses reasonable endeavours to check the accuracy of information provided however no warranty is given that they are error-free.