Back to school so soon!?

Tomorrow is August 1st and I’m sure many of you are thinking one of two things. The first is: my baby, in Kindergarten ALREADY? And if your child has been in school you know its time for the epi-pen, the school action plan, the 504 meeting (read more about what a 504 is here by Dr. Wood), updating the nurse, and meeting the teachers.

Here’s our month by month plan:

JUNE/JULY: Check in with your allergist. Will you do a food challenge this year? Has anything with your child changed? How’s the asthma? Is the Medic-Alert bracelet up to date?

JULY/AUGUST: Order Epi-Pen (by Dey) two pack + albuterol. Make sure the Allergist has given you refills because in September, you’ll fill them again. An epi-pen is one medication that cannot be ordered on the online pharmacies for a three month supply. So keep in mind, you’ll need to get one every 30 days until you have enough for 1. child, 2. school and 3. home. Note: Always open the bag and look at the expiration on the side of the box – it should be 18 months from the time you purchase it, if it says anything different, hand it back to the pharmacy and request another.

AUGUST: Late August is when the school staff returns for the beginning of the school year. This is a good time to get to know them. Walk in IN PERSON. Introduce yourself with your biggest smile you can muster, tell them your child is so excited to be going to school (even if you have incredible anxiety!), and that you need to discuss her medical needs with the nurse, 504 coordinator and head of the building (this can be various people – ranging from an Asst. Principal, to the head of the cafeteria) – you understand this can’t be done today, but let’s see when a good time is. I usually take this moment to stress how flexible I am, I can come anytime that is good for everyone. I also fill out all paperwork early, making sure to fill out the blue emergency card completely.

SEPTEMBER: My child self-carries, so I make sure her medications are up to date and in a small pouch in her bag (check out these really cool monster pouches on by Zomb). Of course, if your child is a little older, you may want to get a cool pouch (check out these pouches by I introduce myself to the teacher and reach out to others letting them know I’m available for any questions, and also available to go on school trips, contribute food for parties, etc.

SEPTEMBER: Our school meeting usually includes the nurse, the guidance counselor, and the Asst. Principal. In the past the teachers have all been at the meeting. We go over our child’s allergens, what to do in the event of an emergency, an approach to class parties (please call us in advance, if not, then don’t single her out of there’s nothing for her to eat, etc.), field trips, science class and any other issues that may arise. We make the meeting QUICK, 15 minutes, tops, respecting everyone’s time.

If your child is going into Kindergarten you may want to ask yourself the following questions (also, please reference this article from Kids With Food Allergies Foundation):

1. How contact reactive is my child?

2. Does or has my child reacted to airborne food proteins? If so, what were they?

3. Does my child self-advocate? (FAAN has a great Food Allergy buddy program called Protect A Life or PAL.)

4. Is there a nurse full-time at the school? If not, who will your child go to if they feel sick?

If your child is going into Middle School/High School:

1. Will my child be accepted by their peers?

2. What do I need to tell my child about food fights?

3. What do I need to tell my child about kissing or unwanted hugging?

4. Our child outgrew the medic-alert bracelet and doesn’t want to wear one. What now?

Watch this Anaphylaxis Canada video about teens and high school:

And lastly, if you’re feeling isolated, overwhelmed or confused – reach out! There are many support groups all over the United States – check out this list of support groups on the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network’s(FAAN – web site. If you can’t find a support group, or if you’re not a support group kind of person, peer-to-peer support can be found online at Kids With Food Allergies Foundation.  Also, I highly recommend reading my good friend’s book ALLERGIC GIRL by Sloane Miller, Food Allergy Coach, Author and Advocate. Her blog is also worth reading “Please Don’t Pass The Nuts” .

***edited to add: If you feel like you are not getting anywhere or are nervous about dealing with your school, consider hiring an advocate – this link explains what an advocate can do for you. NOTE: I do not know this person nor have I used her services. I do know Linda Coss, food allergy expert and writer of many books, and she was interviewed on a podcast (video)  here on the topic of kids and schools. The video may also be helpful.***

Enjoy the rest of the summer, see you in the fall!

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3 Responses to Allergy Free Back to School Strategies for Allergic Kids

  1. Poker Chick says:

    This is a great post; it’s the source of anxiety for so many parents. However I’d love to see something on how to handle it when it doesn’t go as planned. We see so many of these posts with great tips, and for 80% of people they work. But what do you do when the principal won’t listen? What do you do when they refuse some of your requests in a 504, or don’t carry them out in a way you’re comfortable with, when other schools wouldn’t have a problem with it?

    I think for the few parents who do everything right and STILL come up empty, they can read these tips and feel very alone and helpless. We need to help people prepare for every possibility.

    Of course this isn’t your issue alone, but would love to see someone address this very hard issue.

    • Thanks for your comment.

      I guess my question would be: how are those parents coming up empty? The school has made it clear that they won’t keep your child safe?

      Bumps in the road are to be expected, but out of the five schools I’ve had my multiple anaphylactic food allergic child in, all public by the way, not one has told me they can’t keep my child safe.

  2. […] Still feel like you need more information? This Kids With Food Allergies Webinar conducted by Dr. Mike Pistiner and with Sally Schoessler, MEd, BSN, RN, a school nurse from the National Association of School Nurses is excellent. It’s free and has lots of good pointers. I also have a previous post here where I show a letter that I send every year to all of our child’s teachers. And another previous blog post here. […]

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