The following is a guest post by Karma Bryan-Ingle
For most parents, back to school time comes with a bit of anxiety. All of the typical questions arise… Will my child have a teacher who is a good fit? Will he have friends in his class? Will he make new friends?
But for me, this is the time of year when I start to think about what a potentially dangerous place school can be for my son. My son, Evan, suffers from life-threatening food allergies. And one accidental nibble of a peanut can send us rushing to the hospital.
Because I’ve known about Evan’s serious issue since before he was 3, I’ve developed some strategies to help manage his allergies at school:
1. Evan has grown up knowing how serious his food allergies are and in fact, he remembers our first trip to the hospital and never wants to go through that again. We’ve always been very open with him about the dangers of his allergies and as a result, he has become his own biggest advocate! So, first and foremost, educate your child and empower them with this knowledge, no matter how young they are.
2. Evan’s first school took his allergies very seriously. All of the teachers were aware of the severity and so were the children in his classrooms. What surprised me the most is how Evan’s friends also became his advocates and his caregivers! Remember that kids will look out for other kids.
3. Talk to the school and the teachers. Find out about the policies they have in place for dealing with food allergies. Evan’s school posted an Anaphylaxis sheet in the classroom with his picture and details about his allergies. That way, if there was a supply teacher in the classroom, that information was readily available. They also had Evan wear a pack containing 2 Epi-Pens on him at all times, along with having an additional Epi-Pen on hand in the office. I knew that no matter where Evan was at any given time of the day, he’d have Epi-Pens with him and readily available.
This year, Evan is changing schools, so I’m feeling a bit more anxious than normal. I’m now preparing myself to learn the new policies and to educate his new school about his allergy symptoms and what to do should something happen.
So, if you’re a parent of kids with food allergies and you’re feeling anxious about sending them off, rest assured you’re not alone. My biggest piece of advice is that communication is the key to keeping your child safe.
One last tip: I find one of the easiest ways to communicate to other kids and caregivers about your child’s allergies is by labeling food containers and lunch bags.