Food allergies should be taken seriously by your child’s school. Any neglect on their part can be a health emergency for you and your child. If you’re in a public school that doesn’t take the necessary precautions, they should. If a food allergy is really bad, it can be considered a disability that needs to be recognized and managed. Depending on the severity of the allergy, the whole school may need to make some changes.
Children with food allergies deals with the legal jargon and what rights are legally required for children with food allergies in schools.
In the United States, there are three federal laws that protect children with food allergies: Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). It is entirely possible for a child with food allergies to go to school safely and be around peers.
What mom should do
You are the first person to notice that your child has an allergy and this is the kind of situation where mothers need to be proactive with their children. Kid’s Health recommends that parents and children with food allergies see an allergist before each summer school year.
An allergist will find out exactly what your child is allergic to and to what level. Most importantly, they will discuss a plan with you and what your child’s school should do to avoid any contact with the food they are allergic to.
As a mother, you should inform the school of your child’s allergy and insist that a health plan be established. Be sure to ask the school lots of questions too, especially if they don’t have many answers for you. Ask in advance where your child will have lunch and how the table will be cleaned. Insist that all lunch staff and monitors are also aware of your child’s allergy and trained in how to deal with it. Others to be aware of are the teachers who teach special classes and any substitute teacher who monitors your child’s class.
Make sure your child always carries and carries two EpiPens with them at all times, as well as an extra one in the backpack in case needed. EpiPens are auto-injector medication devices full of epinephrine used to treat severe allergic reactions. They are given into a person’s thigh when they experience severe symptoms of an allergic reaction, such as swelling of the throat, face, or lips, difficulty breathing, hives, nausea/vomiting, or dizziness.
Make sure the school has protocols in place so your child’s health information doesn’t slip through the cracks. Also ask where extra EpiPens are kept, how many are available and who can administer them. You are your child’s biggest advocate and by asking lots of questions, not only will the school have a better plan, but they will know that you are not messing around and expect your child to be safe in your hands.
- Make sure the school is aware of the allergy and has a care plan in place.
- Pack your child’s own lunch with safe foods from home.
- Teach your child about their allergy – make sure they know what they can’t eat, what can happen and what to do if they come into contact with a trigger food.
What the school should do
By now, most schools have had to deal with a child with a food allergy. Most should be used to it and these types of health plans are already in place. The school nurse is probably the one in charge of these issues.
The school nurse should get the allergist’s report for review and will be part of the health care planning team.
The school can certainly keep your child anonymous, but still take security measures. The school can prohibit the sharing of food among children and ban certain foods from home for lunch.
Teachers must notify you in the event of class parties where food is involved so that you can opt out or send in your own food. Your child’s school should also insist on hand washing after eating for every child in your child’s class to avoid cross-contamination. It takes a constant flow of communication, as well as dedication to your child’s health plan. Schools need to meet your child’s needs and if they can’t or won’t, it may be time to look for a new school.
Source: CDC, Kid’s Health, Children with Food Allergies