Finding affordable, safe and well managed childcare is a top priority for parents, but if your child has been diagnosed with serious Allergies or Anaphylaxis you will need to do a little more research to find the right care away from home. Milk, egg, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish and shellfish allergies account for 90% of all allergic reactions to food. Allergic reactions vary from mild to serious and may even be life threatening in the case of Anaphylactic shock. So, if your child has been diagnosed with Anaphylaxis, leaving them in the care of others can be daunting. However, with good communication and planning your child can be safely accommodated in childcare and can enjoy a healthy and active pre-school life which is an important part your child’s social and educational development.
So when it comes to finding suitable childcare for an allergic child, besides the usual considerations of staff to child ratio, a happy warm environment, affordability and reliability you will need to ask additional questions to ensure staff fully understand the implications of your child’s allergy and are as committed as you to your child’s safety. With small children this is particularly important as this age group are very active, mobile and tactile. The following tips may help when evaluating suitable childcare for an allergic child as they make that important transition from home.
Top tips for managing allergies in crèche and pre-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 crèche or pre-school in recognising your child’s symptoms of an allergic reaction and response to it.
• Meet with the childcare manager and discuss how they manage allergies in the crèche or pre-school. Go over the allergy management plan provided by your health care professional. In addition to signs & symptoms and appropriate response to an allergic reaction, include your child’s photo in the allergy management plan, provide your child’s details, age and weight, contact details for your doctor, parents and a backup contact in case you can’t be reached. Have the plan displayed clearly so that all staff are aware and can recognise your child should an incident occur.
• If your child is prescribed medication such as anti-histamines and adrenaline, discuss where it is stored, who has access to it and who can administer it? Check that staff have attended Anaphylaxis training (for further information on our training courses click here) and are competent in recognising the signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction and administering adrenaline if it has been prescribed for your child in the event of a serious allergic reaction. Alternatively ask if a local public health nurse or health professional could train staff in when and how to administer adrenaline in the case of a serious allergic reaction.
• Discuss who provides meals. If it’s the crèche ask can you review the weekly menu in advance and check ingredients. Ensure staff understand how to avoid cross contamination of allergens from utensils and dishes. There should be a routine in place of thoroughly washing all utensils, dishes, tables and hands before and after meal preparation.
• Ask where the children eat and ensure they are supervised for meals & snack times. If for example your child has a nut allergy will they make the crèche a nut free zone or have a separate allergy free table for meals and snacks.
• Use accessories like allergy wristbands, clothing, labels & posters to heighten awareness and alert others to your child’s allergies.
• Be aware of potential 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
• Teach your child not to share food or drinks from others and not to accept sweets unless checked by an adult for allergens.
• Assuming they are old enough, explain to your child that if they are not feeling well to tell an adult immediately and not to go to the bathroom or any other area on their own. This is particularly important if they have been diagnosed with an anaphylactic allergy as they can be life threatening in a short period of time.
• Ensure other parents are aware there is a child with allergies in the crèche/pre-school and remind via a newsletter or note at times like Easter, Halloween or Christmas where extra treats may be brought into the crèche. Provide the crèche or pre-school with safe treats or a list of safe treats for special occasions
• If your child is invited to a birthday party, talk to other parents about 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. If the party is in a play centre, ring ahead and talk to the manager about your child’s allergies and ensure they can cater for them.
• If your child has been diagnosed with a serious allergy you could volunteer for excursions and trips to help keep your child safe.
• Consider an allergy education day in the crèche or pre-school to help other parents and kids understand & support your child. A lot of people genuinely are not aware of how serious allergies can be, so be an advocate for your child and raise allergy awareness.
Finally, with advance communication and preparation it is possible for an allergic child to participate fully in crèche and pre-school life. Work in partnership with the creche but if they seem reluctant to work with you, an education and training course may help. We have been very lucky and found a great crèche and school who went that extra mile in keeping our daughter safe. She is now a healthy and active thirteen year old, who enjoys life and is able to speak up for herself when it comes to meals and treats and read ingredient labels. It does take extra planning and preparation but we are determined that she live a normal life as possible and does not let her allergies get in the way.
Useful Products to help your child safe
It’s really important that whoever is minding your child has access to an adrenaline auto-injector (2 is recommended) at all times. Our range of adrenaline pen cases and medication bags can help make sure an adrenaline pen is always with our child. An allergy alert bracelet is a good idea too. Check out our range of kids allergy stories which are a great way to explain to other children in the group about Food allergies and Anaphylaxis. Click here for more information on Anaphylaxis
This article is not intended nor recommended as a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider regarding any medical condition or treatment. Never disregard medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this article.