For parents and children alike, the start of a new school year brings a sense of excitement and anticipation. But for parents of children with food allergies, the new school year can also bring worry and concern. That’s especially true if a child will have a new teacher who may not be familiar with the child’s allergies and the severity of his or her reaction. Considering that up to 40 percent of children in the US have allergies of some kind, and one in three specifically have a food allergy, according to WebMD, allergies are important to address. While new teachers inevitably have many considerations to think about before the school year starts, it’s important to inform the staff about your child’s allergy and the medications that he or she can take to alleviate symptoms if they arise.
Communication goes a long way in managing your child’s Las Vegas allergies. A comprehensive communication plan should ultimately include:
- Your child
- School staff
- Other parents
Most children who are school-age understand food allergies and the problems that can occur with allergy exposure. Along with teaching your child about the specific allergy, you should also teach them what foods they should avoid to reduce the risk of exposure. If the allergy is present in other products too, such as nuts or soy, teach your children about related products that they should avoid as well.
Along with your child, it’s also important to communicate with the school staff about your child’s allergy. Ask the school what protocols and procedures they have in place for handling allergies in students, if any. You may need to fill out a medical form to have on file with the school, and you might also consider providing the school nurse and school administrators with a copy of your child’s medical records that document the allergy and any corresponding medication.
Lastly, a communication plan should also include other parents. While the classroom teacher should be aware of your child’s allergies and the foods that need to be avoided, other parents should also learn what foods your child is allergic to. When they pack lunches, snacks, or prepare foods for school parties, they can avoid the foods that your child is allergic to altogether. Given the ease and practicality of electronic correspondence in today’s society, ask the child’s teacher if you can circulate an email to other parents explaining your child’s allergies and how to protect him or her from exposure.
Create a Food Allergy Action Plan
Prevention is key when it comes to allergy safety at school. However, your child and the school staff should be prepared in case of an encounter with the allergen. In case your child has contact with the food that he or she is allergic to, fast action is essential. Your child should notify an adult immediately at the first sign of allergy-related symptoms.
Parents of children with food allergies should also notify the child’s teacher about the signs and symptoms of a severe allergic reaction, including:
- Difficulty breathing
If your child has severe allergies, chances are good that he or she may be prescribed medication to control symptoms if an allergic reaction occurs. An allergist may prescribe several types of medication for your child. One of the most common is epinephrine. Epinephrine is generally prescribed as an Epi-Pen or a similar auto-injector. Regardless of the brand that your allergist prescribes, your child and his or her teacher should know how to safely store and use the medication in the event of an emergency. The child, teacher, and school officials should also know where the medication is stored and have easy access to it in case fast action is needed. Along with epinephrine for the most severe allergic reactions, your child’s allergist may also suggest other medications to alleviate symptoms. Any other medications that your child may need should also be made available and easily accessible at school. You may also ask an allergist “where can I get an allergy shot?” as an added measure of protection.
Food Handling and Safety
While medications can help your child in case of an allergy attack at school, teaching your child and others in the classroom to avoid allergy exposure in the first place is a critical strategy. When food is served and handled in the classroom, you can ask the child’s teacher to establish a protocol for food safety. That includes a cleansing protocol as well. The teacher should ensure that all utensils, surfaces, and other equipment that may come into contact with the suspected allergen should be properly cleaned to avoid the risk of exposure or cross-contamination. Children in the classroom should also be instructed to thoroughly wash their hands before and after handling food that your child is allergic to. As an added layer of protection, you may also want to send your child to school with his or her own set of utensils and dishes to reduce the risk of allergy exposure.
Make Your Child Snacks
Snacks in the school classroom can also be tricky. While teachers and other adults can do their part to prevent allergy exposure, children are also at risk of coming into contact with allergens through other students. Children will sometimes accept snacks from their classmates in order to avoid hurting their feelings. Additionally, they may forget to tell their classmates about an allergy and accidentally consume food that contains the allergy substance.
If you know in advance that your child’s classroom or school will be having a party with food, you should also prepare some safe alternatives for your child. You can send your child to the party with allergy-safe foods and ask other parents in the classroom to do the same. Additionally, it’s a good idea to ask the teacher or school administrators to let you know at least 48 hours in advance if food will be brought into the classroom at other times as well, such as for science projects and experiments. With advanced notice, you can ask the teacher to provide substitute food items that are safe for your child to handle or even use a non-food alternative. If you are not comfortable with any kind of food-related event at school, it’s also possible to recommend a celebratory event or classroom learning experience that avoids food altogether.
Learn About the School’s Allergy Policy
Given the prevalence of allergies in children, chances are good your child is not the only one at school dealing with a food allergy. Your school may already have plans in place for safely handling and managing food allergies in students. Before the first day of school starts, be sure to ask the teacher or school officials if your child’s school is prepared to handle Las Vegas allergies. Your school may already have a network of professionals and resources to make school safer and more relaxing for children with allergies and their parents. To make yourself feel better about how your child’s allergies are managed at school, you can also ask to speak with other school staff members who are involved in the care process of dealing with food allergies, such as the school nurse and any other healthcare professionals.
Educate Your Child
Since you won’t be there in the classroom every day to keep your child safe from allergy exposure, the second best thing you can do is educate your child so that he or she learns to stay safe in your absence. Parents may want to print out pictures of the food their child is allergic to as a reminder to avoid touching or consuming that allergen and related food substances. If your child is old enough to read, you can teach him or her to check the labels on products to make sure their allergen is not included on the list. You can also teach your child to check labels and packaging for other foods that may have a higher risk of cross-contamination, such as food items that contain nuts, soy, or dairy as byproducts.
Prevention and Allergy Testing
Given the prevalence of allergies in school-age children, parents may be concerned that their child may have a hidden food allergy that they are unaware of. For peace of mind, you can always schedule an appointment by looking for the “best allergists near me” to have your child tested for food allergies. An allergist can either confirm an allergy or rule it out. If an allergy does exist, the allergy specialist may prescribe medication and an action plan accordingly. In addition to medication, your allergist may also recommend desensitization treatments such as allergy shots to make your child’s reaction less severe in case of accidental exposure to the allergen. If that sounds appealing, you’re also probably wondering “where can I get an allergy shot?”. Fortunately, you can contact the office of Dr. Tottori to schedule allergy shots for your child as an added measure to get his or her allergies under control.
If you are now asking yourself “where can I find the best allergists near me?” or “where can I go for food allergy testing near me?”, let us assist. Dr. Tottori offers allergy testing and treatment for pediatric and adult patients. Call 702-240-4233 or visit our website to get relief from allergy and asthma symptoms today.