Food Allergies at School: Tips on Preparing Kids with Food Allergies for Back to School

Food Allergies at School: Tips on Preparing Kids with Food Allergies for Back to School

As a parent of kid with allergies – specifically, food allergy, diabetes or another life-threatening condition, back to school can be stressful!

Conditions such as – a kid with peanut butter allergy getting exposed to peanut butter or a kid allergic to gluten offered cupcake or something that may have gluten resulting into intestinal reaction or flare-up of eczema – or a kid with diabetes having low blood sugar moment – could be distressful for the parents of kids with food allergies.

Allergies and Asthma Clinic, Austin and Round Rock TX, recommend parents of kids with such conditions seeing a pediatric allergy specialist to help you identify risks of food allergy early and mitigate them.

Kids with Food Allergies A Division of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America offers free resources and guides such as downloadable printable PDFs, Videos, Articles and below are some school planning tips for parents of child having food allergies:

  • Communicate with the school
  • Visit your child’s doctor before school starts
  • Meet with the school nurse or school representative before school starts
  • Meet with the school/district food services director
  • Turn in all completed and signed forms and prescriptions before the first day of school
  • Make an appointment to meet the teacher to discuss classroom management of food allergies
  • Teach and encourage your child to build age-appropriate skills to manage food allergies
  • List of items your child may need to store at school
  • Work together to form a partnership with your child’s school

Dr. BJ Lanser, who is the director of the Pediatric Food Allergy Program at National Jewish Health, offered these tips about managing food allergies, that could be applied to other conditions as well:

  1. Meet with school staff members: Set up meetings with principals, teachers, nurses and cafeteria staff. This ensures that everyone is informed and prepared and allows a parent to understand how a child’s school manages food allergies.
  2. Create a written plan: Work with an allergist to develop an action plan that outlines all necessary information on your child’s allergy, including how to prevent accidental exposures and how to recognize and treat symptoms of an allergic reaction.
  3. Post pictures: Tape pictures of your child to the classroom wall with information on their allergies to alert anyone that comes into the room. You can also post one on your child’s desk, which can serve as a secondary reminder when snacks are served.
  4. Make safe snacks: Pack allergen-free snacks for your child in case someone brings in a treat for the class. Send the snacks to school with a label specifying that they are safe or leave some with their teacher, so your child won’t feel left out during classroom celebrations.
  • Have good communication with teachers and other parents. Be vocal about what your child’s food needs are and be proactive about finding solutions. However, don’t expect that the teacher or parent will change what they are planning to suit your child. It’s nice when it happens, but not realistic to depend on that.
  • Try to pre-plan with similar food alternates. Fothergill finds out ahead of time when there will be a party at school or what a birthday party host will be serving. If it’s not what her children can eat, she will make her children the gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free equivalent if that is possible. A teacher even asked her to make the whole class gluten-free spaghetti for an event so that it wouldn’t be an issue.
  • Try to always have food on-hand. Fothergill keeps a freezer of food, especially baked goods for parties. She also sets up teachers with either pre-packaged cookies or frozen cupcakes they can keep in the freezer at school for when parties happen. Of course, on the occasion when her kids don’t have access to an alternative, they learn that “they can’t always get what they want,” she says. “Sometimes you have to wait.”
  • Eat before an event. If her kids are headed to a play date, she has them make a gluten-free sandwich beforehand. If there aren’t good choices at the event, they won’t be hungry.
  • Bring something with you. She also tries to have snacks on-hand wherever they go.
  • Learn where there could be cross-contamination. They stopped eating things like corn chips and fries because of the cross-contamination that happens when a restaurant fries the onion rings or the chicken nuggets in the same fryer as the chips or the fries. She’s also learned to always ask questions even if you would think something like a risotto would be gluten-free, but you find out that that chef puts flour in his risotto. She’s also learned to look at beauty products as well.
  • And again: Empower kids to be their own advocates. It gets easier with time, but her kids have learned how to talk to adults and their friends about their food needs. “It makes them independent,” she says.

Allergies and Asthma Clinic would like to thank Nicole Villalpando, Parenting & homes editor at American-Statesman for compiling these tips and sharing her views on handling school issues when you have child with a gluten intolerance or Celiac disease. A lot of the same principles would apply to any food allergy or intolerance. Some of the suggestions from Nicole:

  • Have approved snacks at school for the teacher to give out if there is a cupcake day.
  • Educate the teacher and the classes’ parents about why your child can’t have the cupcake and offer parents solutions of what they could bring for your child.
  • Empower kids to be their own advocate and understand what they can and cannot have.

About Allergy and Asthma Clinic

Dr. Binaca Gaglani treats both adult and pediatric patients for allergy, asthma, sinusitis, eczema and other conditions since 1996 in Austin and Round Rock, Texas.

Planning now will help ensure a safe and successful school year for your child with food allergies. 

Patients may call at (512) 804 0000 or (512) 804 0999 to request an appointment at Austin or Round Rock clinic respectively or by filling up the Consultation form.