If your child has allergies to any types of food, sending them back to school or off to school for the first time can be a stressful situation. As they head to school, it is important that you work directly with the school and staff to prevent contact with known food issues. This should include communication with your doctor, school principal, teachers, and the school nurse.
Federal and State Guidelines
Unfortunately, there are no federal guidelines that mandate schools to meet any specific requirements related to food allergies. The Center for Disease Control (CDC), has issued voluntary guidelines for managing food allergies that some schools have adopted and some have not. There are 14 states that have formal policies and guidelines to improve the management of food allergies in schools.
These states include Arizona, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennesse, Texas, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia. If you live in one of these states, check the mandated policies to ensure your school has all of the required guidelines in place.
If you do not live in one of these states, you’ll want to take some extra precautions to ensure your child’s safety.
Regardless of the programs your child’s school may or may not have in place, communicate their food allergies with all staff members they are directly involved with, as well as, the school nurse, and school principal. Ask the school if they have an Individualized Health Plan or 504 Plan that can be implemented.
These plans help coordinate your child’s specific needs to all applicable staff members in a more formal setting. Either way, communicate all food allergies in writing and verbally to their teachers, principal, and school nurse. Meet with the school nurse to find out if there is a nurse on duty at all times and ask how much experience they have with food-related emergencies.
If they participate in sporting activities or after school clubs, reach out to the coaches and mentors in addition to the regular staff.
Doctors and Medications
If your child requires medications for their food allergies on a regular basis, or in the event of an emergency, you will need to have a medical authorization on file with the school. The authorization may allow them to self-carry or self-administer medications or may require a school staff member such as the nurse to be the primary holder and administration for their medications.
Be sure you have this in place before they head back to school along with additional medications if your child will need to keep some at home and some at school.