For some parents, sending a child with life-threatening food allergies off to school can feel like an overwhelming task, especially if the child is entering a new school or attending for the first time. FARE has many resources on our website’s “Managing Food Allergies at School” section, but there are a few key tasks for food allergy parents to complete before the school year starts.
Assignment #1: Get your paperwork in order
FARE’s Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Emergency Care Plan should be on file for every student with food allergies. It outlines treatment recommended treatment in case of an allergic reaction, includes emergency contact numbers and is signed by the student’s physician.
Students with food allergies should also have a written management plan, such as a 504 Plan, in place. A 504 Plan (named for Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973) is a plan that outlines the accommodations, aids or services that a student with a disability needs in order to use, and fully participate in, a free and appropriate public education (FAPE).
Assignment #2: Make your shopping list
Along with new sneakers and a lunchbox, add medical identification jewelry to your Back-to-School shopping list. Wearing medical identification at all times can help give you peace of mind that you are prepared should a life-threatening reaction occur. We have partnered with the MedicAlert Foundation to launch the “MyVoice” program, designed to help protect individuals with food allergies with life-saving services. The MyVoice program provides a 10 percent discount on MedicAlert memberships as well as $10 off a medical identification bracelet for both adults and children. Learn more on the MedicAlert website.
You can also purchase Allergy Caution Labels from Name Bubbles to label items that travel to and from your house with identification and emergency contact information. Through FARE’s partnership with the company, they will be donating 20% of all allergy product purchases to FARE, with a minimum donation of $10,000 for 2014. Create your personalized labels on the Name Bubbles website.
Assignment #3: Talk to your team
Putting a written management plan in place requires communication and coordination with many school staff members, such as administrators, school nurses, food service staff, and your allergist or other doctor.
Teachers are key partners in keeping children with food allergies safe and included at school. Before the first day of school, meet with the teacher to discuss the child’s emergency care and management plans. You can also provide him/her with a copy of FARE’s Teacher’s Checklist, which has 10 basic tips for teachers who have students with food allergies, such as using non-food incentives and having rapid access to epinephrine auto-injectors.
Assignment #4: Send education and awareness posters to your school
Back to School season is a great opportunity to take action and work with your local schools to educate the school community about the serious nature of food allergies. This year, with your $25 donation to our poster drive, we will send three premium posters to the school or community building of your choice to help educate and raise awareness about food allergies. This is a simple way you can provide your school with resources and make a difference!
Assignment #5: Have a family meeting
Talking to your child and explaining or reinforcing some basic safety precautions can help them feel confident entering a new school year. While each child is different, you can focus on a few things they can do each day at school, such as:
- Knowing where their epinephrine is stored or carrying it with them at all times.
- Always wearing their medical identification bracelet.
- Only eating the food you have packed or approved as safe for them.
- Telling an adult immediately if they feel sick.
In addition to the information provided here, there is a wealth of information about how to successfully manage food allergies at school on FARE’s website, including national guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), a letter from FARE to school leaders, and information about school access to epinephrine.