Food allergies can cause everything from indigestion or headache, to eczema, wheezing, hives, or – in extreme cases – anaphylaxis, an allergic reaction causing the windpipe to swell closed. A study by Hugh Sampson, M.D., of Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York, found that four out of six cases of fatal food anaphylaxis occurred at school.
Parents of children with food allergies should:
- Discuss the child’s food allergies with the school principal, secretary, teachers, nurse, and cafeteria manager.
- Provide the school with written instructions for response to any allergic reaction, administration of medications, and phone numbers to use in case of emergency.
- If prescribed, provide the school with an EpiPen® or Ana-Kit® (injectable adrenaline) and demonstrate how to administer the injection in the event that the child cannot perform this procedure.
In the school cafeteria
Lunch is a time for your child to relax, re-energize, and socialize with friends. It should be a pleasant experience, and your child needs to feel “just like the other kids” despite food restrictions. As a parent, you can help your food-allergic child be independent and responsible for food choices. It is up to you to establish guidelines for your child and set a foundation for an effective dietary regimen.
The following are steps you can take to support your child:
- Give your child as much control over food choices as possible. Let children pack their own lunches and always be sure to keep plenty of “allowable” foods on hand.
- Consider having your child wear a MedicAlert® bracelet that provides pertinent medical information. (For more information, call 888-633-4298.)
- For school parties and festivities, send “special treats” for your child to substitute for “forbidden” foods. Be sure to send enough to share with classmates.
Above all, keep a positive attitude when enforcing the importance of your child’s diet. Praise children for their efforts and remember a child with allergies is a “normal” child who just has to eat a bit differently!