Back-to-school can be a scary time for many parents with children who have allergies since accidental exposure to allergens at school could be fatal. Food allergies often are the most concerning for school-age children since allergens can be hidden in food or utensils and pots and pans could be contaminated without the child’s knowledge. This is why parents of children with food allergies should talk to their child’s physician about an allergy action plan and ensure it’s in place at the child’s school before the first day of classes.
In the event of an accidental exposure, the plan helps school personnel manage the reaction in a prompt and effective way. Talk to the school principle, nurse and your child’s teacher to make sure they have reviewed your child’s health records. Also, ask what they do to prevent accidental exposure and how staff is trained to handle an emergency situation.
If the child is older and knows who to self-administer medications see if the school will allow your child to carry the medication with him or her. If that is not allowed make sure the school has the following medications:
· Epinephrine autoinjectors
· Albuterol rescue inhalers
In addition to other staff it is imperative the child’s teacher be aware of the child’s allergies, educated on signs of a reaction and trained on how to respond in case of an emergency, as reactions can escalate quickly. It also would be good to suggest the school bus drivers and after-school program staff be alerted to the child’s allergies and trained on how to respond in the event of an emergency.
The best way to keep a child with a food allergy safe is to educate the child and the child’s school community so start talking. As soon as your child is diagnosed with a food allergy begin teaching him or her what to avoid. Talk about safe and unsafe foods and encourage them to never share food with friends or eat something with unknown ingredients.
Each month a primary care physician from the Loyola Center for Heath in Homer Glen will share health tips for the whole family. Dr. Sara Doss is an integral part of the Loyola University Health System’s primary care team. She specializes in adult internal medicine and pediatrics and enjoys seeing patients of all ages from infants to older adults at the Loyola Center for Health at Homer Glen. In addition, she is an assistant professor at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine in the departments of internal medicine and pediatrics. When not seeing patients she enjoys exercising, cooking and reading. She recently added Mom to her list of titles.